Category Archives: Lists

Top 16 Books of 2016

Man, this was a sucky year. One saving grace is that there were still books in it. Oh, looks like Goodreads has already done the work for me. If you don’t have access to the link, here’s a shorter, simpler annual best-of list. Note: these are not necessarily in order and not necessarily published this year, just read this year. By me. And possibly you. This is always a difficult task but my usual means of deciding which ones make the cut is asking myself “would I actually purchase a second copy and/or re-read this book and/or foist this book on others?” The winners are:

  1. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda (bonus for the accompanying earworm, mindworm, soulworm)
  2. The Devil You Know (Felix Castor, #1) by Mike Carey (first in an enjoyable series) but also Fellside by the same author
  3. Wake of Vultures (The Shadow, #1) by Lila Bowen (first in an enjoyable series)
  4. Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg (side-splittingly funny)
  5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  6. Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley
  7. Beguilement (The Sharing Knife, #1) by Lois McMaster Bujold
  8. The Bolds by Julian Clary (kids book but delightful for adults too)
  9. The City of Mirrors (The Passage, #3) by Justin Cronin (satisfying conclusion)
  10. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (despite the fear and trembling I experienced whilst reading this potentially prescient tale)
  11. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
  12. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe (xkcd)
  13. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  14. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
  15. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  16. You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day
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Good Eats 5.0

In anticipation of guests (visitor season runs preeeetty much all year), I bequeath unto you, version 5.0. Note, this is not in order of rating or preference.

Good Eats 1.0

Good Eats 2.0

Good Eats 3.0

Good Eats 4.0

Baji’s Top Eateries Around Town:

  • Best Brunch: SS: Eggspectation has usurped the throne from Le Madeline. A chain, yes, but only 6 restaurants in the area and a few elsewhere. Anyway, not only is it around the corner from us, but the menu is wide and varied with enough selections to please anyone. The Brioche Beauty has mysteriously disappeared (victim to Le Mad’s revenge?) but other dishes support Egg’s coup d’etat.
  • Best 24-hour:  SS: Tastee Diner. It’s actually terrible. But it is open all the time. Nowhere near as amazing as DC’s The Diner  or Open City but it is around the corner from us and the milk shakes are amazing, especially when coupled with hot, crispy fries. Plus, they don’t mind you using their free wi-fi and a/c or heat when the power goes out which, as we found, is about once a season. Also very kid-friendly.
  • Best Burger: BurgerFi. You’d think I’d say Urban Butcher but I actually prefer their ahi tuna and ginger ceviche than I did their unhinge-your-jaw, hope-you-like-it-raw burger.
  • Best Steak: The Classics (formerly known as Ray’s The Classics). Downside: only open for dinner and kind of kid-unfriendly.
  • Best Greek: SS: Big Greek Cafe.
  • Best Sushi: SS: reluctantly vote Ikko sushi for this category. It’s fine and all but it’s no Kotobuki. DC: Kotobuki. Bite-sized morsels that melt in your mouth and at a great price.
  • Best Ethiopian: SS: Abol. Although I suspect they stole my credit card info and now only use cash, I still go here because the food is good and the lunch special is a deal. If in DC, Meskerem – NO!  RIP. Dukem only because it’s the only other one I’ve been to and it’s still in business!
  • Best Indian: SS: Toss up between Ghar-E-Kebab and Jewel of India. Both are close by although Ghar is closer to our ghar than Jewel is. Don’t listen to tp who always insists that the tandoori chicken is the way to go. Get the butter chicken and thank me later (i.e. while I’m helping you eat it off your plate). DC: Rasika. Seriously amazing stuff including their famous Palak Chaat (crispy spinach).
  • Best South Indian: SS(ish): Udupi Palace. Woodlands. No longer a hike to get there and the all-you-can eat brunch with free dosas makes it worth it. Discovered that the non-buffet sit-down-and-eat-properly fare is even better. The grocery store next door is nicely stocked as well. And if you want meat dishes, visit Jewel of India (see above).
  • Best Spanish tapas: SS: La Malinche. Great food for high prices. Maybe just go there for lunch. DC: Goodbye Jaleo and your stupid new tricks [food in a shoe, indeed]. We’ll choose DC’s Oyamel for now with its absolutely lovely waitstaff and wonderful table-side guacamole show.
  • Best Vietnamese: SS: Lotus Cafe. Appropriately run down and reminds us very much of St. Louis. Runner up: the new but too trendy (and acc’ to tp, the pho doesn’t have enough subtle layers of flavor) Pho Hiep Hoa. DC: Nam Viet. Haven’t had a bad meal there yet.
  • Best Thai: SS(ish) Nava Thai   Ruan Thai. Beware, this place is wildly popular on the weekends. One larb-gai-craving evening, we called to place an order to pick up and we were told there was over a two-hour wait.  TO PICK UP! Worth it.
  • Best Middle Eastern: Lebanese Taverna. Another crowd-pleaser that we often visit when money-bags parents are in town. There is a cafe version in DTSS which offers tasty falafel and hummus but nothing beats the newly-renovated DTDC one. DC: Rosemary’s Thyme. Pide is divine. Go on the weekend and they’ll throw an egg or two on it for you!
  • Best Pizza: SS: Pete’s Pizza. Pete’s offers New Haven-type pizza and delivers AND a opened just around the corner from us! DC: Two Amys offers Neapolitan style pizza and requires driving and I haven’t been there in years but have fond memories of it. MD and DC: Vace. Salty goodness.
  • Best Bagels: SS: Goldberg’s New York Bagels. Goldberg’s is closed on Saturday for the shabbat so you KNOW they are good. DC: So’s Your Mom.
  • Best Afghan: VA: Afghan Restaurant. What the name lacks in cleverness, the cuisine makes up for in taste. Way far away in Crystal City.
    Best Turkish: VA: Kazan. Our go-to place when visiting Grandpa in McLean which is lousy with conservatives but that’s the price you pay for visiting this lovely eatery.
  • Best Kebabs: MD: Tie between our beloved and mild but tasty and juicy Moby Dick (Bethesda and also in DC) and Kabob N Karahi (spicy and quite a hike; worth it). VA: Food Factory. Kabob Palace. Also way far away in Crystal City but since LB works right there, easy enough to place an order through her and have it delivered.  Through her.  Tip well!
  • Best Mexican: MD/DC: Mi Cocina. only the good die young! I miss you, tacos de brisket!  [tbd] DC: Mixtec.Super Tacos. Just click on the link and turn up the volume to get your first taste. Mi Rancho is much much closer but does not even compare. Pity Taqueria Distrito Federal didn’t stay in business. Why can’t Silver Spring keep its Mexican restaurants?
  • Best Latkes, Pastrami Sandwiches, Matzoh Ball Soup, and French Toast: Open City. SS: Parkway Deli. Don’t let the cranky old people dissuade you from standing in a sluggish line to get seated elbow-to-elbow with them.
  • Best Seafood: DC: Grillfish. Wide selection and since they specialize in fish, you can’t be steered too wrongly as, say, if you visited one of those mix of cuisine joints.
  • Best Italian: SS: Santucci‘s. Mean subs: DC: La Tomate. The other dishes are great too but I love their ps’ghetti. VA: Italian Store. Does exactly what it says on the tin.
  • Best Lasagna: SS: Olazzo. Veggie and meat.
  • Best Gelato: DC: Dolcezza. Pitango Gelato. *dies*.
  • Best Ice Cream: SS: Tropical Ice Cream. Update: they closed. Update: they are open again but I’ve not been to the new rendition so will reserve judgment.
  • Best Spring Rolls: DC: Thaiphoon. Crunchy and veggie.
  • Best Tea: DC: Teaism. Lovely wares and calming atmosphere.
  • Best Coffee: Our house. Seriously, nothing much comes close to our Nespresso. MD: Kaldi‘s. Ridiculously uncomfortable chairs, pretty decent cup o’ joe. DC: Illy. Always.
  • Best Bakery: SS: Kaldi’s again!  House-made buttery, flaky goodness. For cakes: Woodmoor. DC: Le Caprice (will fess up to slight nepotism here as my friend’s family owns it).
  • Best Cuban: Cubano’s. If all you want are arepas, then visit Arepas Pues. If you want all other Cuban dishes done right (and hot and in a timely fashion), go to Cubano’s. Viva ropa vieja!
  • Best Cupcakes: DC: Baked & Wired. Who knows how long this ridiculous cupcake fad will last but while it does, this is the place to go.
  • Best Fancy Nearby: GP: Black Market Bistro. SS: 8407 Kitchen Bar. Last time I was there, I got the “8407 Lamb Bolognaise with House Made Tagliatelle” and was well-pleased but ownership has changed hands since then so I’m not sure if I can vouch for them any more. I could have chosen Mrs. K’s Tollhouse but unless you are a 70 year old woman and/or just coming back from church on Sunday morning, you should stick with Kitchen Bar. DC: Komi. Haven’t had the pleasure or luxury of hitting up Rose’s luxury but they’d have a high bar to jump to beat Komi.
  • Best Burmese: SS: Mandalay. Gives me tummy rumblin’s every time but I keep going back.
  • Best French: MD: Mon Ami Gabi. Our go-to place for exquisite steaks, mouth-watering seafood, and artery-clogging fries and dessert. DC: Le Diplomate. Perhaps all the fame has died down and you can get a seat here but hedge your bets and go for lunch instead of putting all your money on a weekend night.
  • Best Laotian: DC: Thip Khao. Not much competition but even if there were, this would win for the sticky mango rice alone.
  • Best Jamaican: SS: Negril. Not much competition but even if there were, this would win for the patties alone.

Top 15 Books 2015

Until I have the time and energy to devote to reshaping my Top 100 list, I’ll take baby steps with the books I’ve read this year. Note: these are not necessarily in order and not necessarily published this year, just read this year. By me. And possibly you. This is always a difficult task but my usual means of deciding which ones make the cut is asking myself “would I actually purchase a second copy and/or re-read this book and/or foist this book on others?” The winners are:

  1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir
  3. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  4. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  6. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, #1) by Ryan North
  7. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
  8. Fool’s Quest (The Fitz and The Fool, #2) by Robin Hobb
  9. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
  10. The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam by G. Willow Wilson
  11. Changes (The Dresden Files, #12) by Jim Butcher
  12. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  13. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  14. Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming
  15. Back Story (Paperback) by David Mitchell

Top Ten Books 2014

Until I have the time and energy to devote to reshaping my Top 100 list, I’ll take baby steps with the books I’ve read this year. Note: these are not necessarily in order and not necessarily published this year, just read this year. By me. And possibly you. This is always a difficult task but my usual means of deciding which ones make the cut is asking myself “would I actually purchase a second copy and/or re-read this book and/or foist this book on others?” The winners are:

Be advised: the only reason David Mitchell’s Back Story didn’t make it on this year’s list is because I haven’t finished it yet. I’m savoring it. I love it. Note to self: make this #1 on next year’s list.

Good Eats 4.0

In anticipation of guests (visitor season runs preeeetty much all year), I bequeath unto you, version 4.0. Note, this is not in order of rating or preference.

Good Eats 1.0

Good Eats 2.0

Good Eats 3.0

Baji’s Top Eateries Around Town:

  • Best Brunch: SS: Le Madeline. A chain, yes, but only 10 restaurants in the area and a few elsewhere. Anyway, not only is it around the corner from us, but the Tomato Bisque Soup is smashing and the croissants are tremendously buttery and flaky.
  • Best 24-hour:  SS: Tastee Diner. It’s actually terrible. But it is open all the time. Nowhere near as amazing as DC’s The Diner but it is around the corner from us and the milk shakes are amazing, especially when coupled with hot, crispy fries. Plus, they don’t mind you using their free wi-fi and a/c or heat when the power goes out which, as we found, is about once a season. Also very kid-friendly.
  • Best Burger: BurgerFi. You’d think I’d say Urban Butcher but I actually prefer their ahi tuna and ginger ceviche than I did their unhinge-your-jaw burger.
  • Best Steak: The Classics (formerly known as Ray’s The Classics). Downside: only open for dinner and kind of kid-unfriendly.
  • Best Greek: SS: Big Greek Cafe.
  • Best Sushi: SS: [tbd]. DC: Kotobuki. Bite-sized morsels that melt in your mouth and at a great price.
  • Best Ethiopian: SS: Abol. Although I suspect they stole my credit card info and now only use cash, I still go here because the food is good and the lunch special is a deal. If in DC, Meskerem.
  • Best Indian: DC: Rasika. Seriously amazing stuff including their famous Palak Chaat (crispy spinach).
  • Best South Indian: SS(ish): Udupi Palace. Woodlands. No longer a hike to get there and the all-you-can eat brunch with free dosas makes it worth it. Discovered that the non-buffet sit-down-and-eat-properly fare is even better. The grocery store next door is nicely stocked as well.
  • Best Spanish tapas: Goodbye Jaleo and your stupid new tricks [food in a shoe, indeed]. We’ll choose DC’s Oyamel for now with its absolutely lovely waitstaff and wonderful table-side guacamole show.  
  • Best Vietnamese: SS: Lotus Cafe. Appropriately run down and reminds us very much of St. Louis. Runner up: the new but too trendy (and acc’ to tp, the pho doesn’t have enough subtle layers of flavor) Pho Hiep Hoa. DC: Nam Viet. Haven’t had a bad meal there yet.
  • Best Middle Eastern: Lebanese Taverna. Another crowd-pleaser that we often visit when money-bags parents are in town. There is a cafe version in DTSS which offers tasty falafel and hummus but nothing beats the newly-renovated DTDC one.
  • Best Pizza: SS: Pete’s Pizza. Pete’s offers New Haven-type pizza and delivers AND a opened just around the corner from us! Two Amys offers Neapolitan style pizza and requires driving and I haven’t been there in years but have fond memories of it. DC: Vace. Salty goodness.
  • Best Bagels: SS: Goldberg’s New York Bagels. Goldberg’s is closed on Saturday for the shabbat so you KNOW they are good. DC: So’s Your Mom
  • Best Afghan: VA: Afghan Restaurant. What the name lacks in cleverness, the cuisine makes up for in taste. Way far away in Crystal City.
  • Best Kebabs: MD: Kabob N Karahi. Quite a hike. VA: Food Factory. Kabob Palace. Also way far away in Crystal City but since LB works right there, easy enough to place an order through her and have it delivered.  Through her.  Tip well!
  • Best Butter Chicken: SS: Ghar-E-Kebab. Close by and they deliver. Don’t listen to tp who always insists that the tandoori chicken is the way to go. Get the butter chicken and thank me later (i.e. while I’m helping you eat it off your plate).
  • Best Mexican: MD/DC: Mi Cocina. Technically Tex-Mex, but the “tacos de brisket” are so phenomenal that I will let it get away with anything. DC: Mixtec.Super Tacos. Just click on the link and turn up the volume to get your first taste. Mi Rancho is much much closer but does not even compare. Pity Taqueria Distrito Federal didn’t stay in business.
  • Best Latkes, Pastrami Sandwiches, Matzoh Ball Soup, and French Toast: Open City. SS: Parkway Deli. Don’t let the cranky old people dissuade you from standing in a sluggish line to get seated elbow-to-elbow with them.
  • Best Seafood: DC: Grillfish. Wide selection and since they specialize in fish, you can’t be steered too wrongly as, say, if you visited one of those mix of cuisine joints.
  • Best Ps’ghetti: DC: La Tomate. The other dishes are great too but I love their ps’ghetti.
  • Best Lasagna: SS: Olazzo. Veggie and meat.
  • Best Gelato: DC: Dolcezza. Pitango Gelato. *dies*.
  • Best Ice Cream: SS: Tropical Ice Cream.
  • Best Spring Rolls: DC: Thaiphoon. Crunchy and veggie.
  • Best Thai: SS(ish) Nava Thai   Ruan Thai. Beware, this place is wildly popular on the weekends. One larb-gai-craving evening, we called to place an order to pick up and we were told there was over a two-hour wait.  TO PICK UP! Worth it.
  • Best Tea: DC: Teaism. Lovely wares and calming atmosphere.
  • Best Coffee: Our house. Seriously, nothing much comes close to our Nespresso. MD: Kaldi‘s. Ridiculously uncomfortable chairs, pretty decent cup o’ joe. DC: Illy. Always.
  • Best Bakery: SS: Kaldi’s again!  House-made buttery, flaky goodness. For cakes: Woodmoor. DC: Le Caprice (will fess up to slight nepotism here as my friend’s family owns it).
  • Best Cupcakes: DC: Baked & Wired. Who knows how long this ridiculous cupcake fad will last but while it does, this is the place to go.
  • Best Fancy Nearby: GP: Black Market Bistro. SS: 8407 Kitchen Bar. Last time I was there, I got the “8407 Lamb Bolognaise with House Made Tagliatelle” and was well-pleased but ownership has changed hands since then so I’m not sure if I can vouch for them any more. I could have chosen Mrs. K’s Tollhouse but unless you are a 70 year old woman and/or just coming back from church on Sunday morning, you should stick with Kitchen Bar.
  • Best Burmese: SS: Mandalay. Gives me tummy rumblin’s every time but I keep going back.

Top Ten Foreign (non-English because technically the U.K. is “foreign” for this blogger) Films

I love subtitles even when the movie/show is in English.

  1. Amores Perros
  2. Fear and Trembling a version of …
  3. Amélie
  4. Y Tu Mama Tambien
  5. 8 Women
  6. The White Balloon
  7. Dil To Pagal Hai
  8. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
  9. Once Upon a Time in China
  10. The Lives of Others

 

Top Ten Movies I Can See More Than Once … And Have

Anytime one of these pops up while I’m channel-surfing, I can’t not stop. This list supplements all the other lists just so I don’t have any repeats.

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. Star Wars (pre-reboot)
  3. This is Spinal Tap
  4. Fight Club
  5. The Cornetto Trilogy (a cheat to lump three in one but who you gonna call? ooh, that reminds me…)
  6. The Godfather (you thought I was going to say Ghostbusters, didn’t you? and I would, if I were stuck in the ’80s)
  7. Pulp Fiction
  8. The Shawshank Redemption
  9. Raising Arizona
  10. Young Frankenstein