Thursday, August 18, 2011

DC Food Blogger Happy Hour - September 7 - Mala Tang

RSVP Here.

Here is the problem with spending a significant part of my day reading about food and talking about food: I tend to get disappointed when I actually eat at the restaurant. Many times, new restaurants are built up to be these amazing experiences and I leave them feeling a bit down.

I did not feel this way about Mala Tang. This is after reading great reviews, hearing it from fellow bloggers, and also hearing it from my own boss about how good this place is. Here are the reasons why I enjoyed my meal at Mala Tang and why I am going back:

- The food is good. When presented, the meat looks fresh, the vegetables look great, and the broth served is delicious. Also, you can customize your food based on your tastes and there is a lot of food. Everyone in my dinner party took home food. I can recommend the Dan Dan Noodles and the cold spicy noodles. I ordered the beef, napa cabbage, and mushrooms. Delish! The dumplings were only ok. I would stick with the spicy cold noodles for your appetizer.

- Service is good and the place looks clean. When I lived in California near an area called Little Saigon, there was a push by the city to teach Vietnamese restaurant owners how to provide good service to bring in more customers and bring money to the city. They were addressing the fact that most Asian restaurants do not pay attention to service. The concentration is serving delicious food fast and at a good price. That mentality discourages some people from eating at Asian restaurants and this mentality is different at Mala Tang. Our server was especially attentive and even gave us a discount on our meal. I've been to other "hot pot" establishments and trust me when I say this place is clean and the food is presented well.

-Atmosphere is fun. How can you not have fun cooking your own food in a little personal pot of soup? I also like the large wooden tables and the tables are spaced far enough away from other guests that you don't feel like other people can listen in on the conversation.This is the kind of eating that encourages conversation. You talk, you cook, you eat and then you can relax and talk some more. There is no rush to eat your food while it is hot because you are in control of that.

- Mala Tang offers many different ways of getting discounts. I've seen them on multiple "deals" websites and they are currently on Savored.

This is a great restaurant to go with a bunch of friends. I plan on taking Marshall and a few other friends here soon (for instance, September 7th).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Favorite Word Other Than "Coupon"

Free. That is my favorite word other than coupon.

All these vegetables above were given to me by my co-worker Lucy. Lucy and her family are on vacation this week and she asked me if I would like her CSA shipment "Absolutely!" (or maybe it was "Hell Yeah!) was my reply.

This CSA is from Potomac Vegetable Farms in Virginia. This week's bag consisted of peppers, eggplant, chives, basil, carrots, corn, a melon and a large bag of tomatoes. Everything looks so beautiful and so fresh that it is making me want to sign up for my own CSA bag next year. Let me know if you have any other CSAs that deliver in the Arlington area that you can recommend.

Big thank you to my co-worker Lucy for giving me all this great loot.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Coupon Mania

I've been told by multiple people that this book is proof that I am certifiably insane. Yes, I got bit by the "Extreme Couponing" bug. I have always been a fan of coupons but I have never taken it this far.

The picture above is a 3 inch binder full of coupons. It is filled with over 75 pages of baseball card sheet protectors. At first, I just got coupons from our Sunday paper. When I realized that in order to really take advantage of good deals, I would need multiples of the good coupons, I started looking around. It made no sense for me to spend money to get coupons if I didn't have to. First, I found a recycle bin at a Starbucks near my office on a Monday where they discarded the Sunday papers that were not sold on the previous Sunday. Score! There were at least 5 sets of coupons that I picked up. Each Monday since, I have woken up early just so I can stop by the Starbucks on my way to the office. Second, one morning when I happen to be up really early, I ran into the man delivering our newspaper. I chatted him up and asked what he did with the extra coupon inserts and he told me they destroyed them. I told him that if he ever had any extras, I would not mind getting them. That very day, a few extra copies were dropped off at my door step. Some weeks I would get a few sets and some weeks I did not. It is all good. I appreciate

Since I started building my collection of coupons, I started to realize a big change in me. One, I had no filter. I started asking the most random people what kind of products they used so that I could tell them whether or not I had a coupon for it. I emailed people that I am acquainted with and eagerly wanted to know what brand toothpaste they used so that I could pick up tube for them on my next shopping trip. My good friend Jason just moved into an apartment by himself and I found myself asking him, "Can I use one of your closets for my stockpile?"

Second, I haven't slept in on the weekends since I got started. On Saturday mornings, when the coupon inserts get delivered to our door, I wake up excited at 7am so that I can make my cup of coffee and flip through the coupon pages. On Sundays, I get up and haul my 50lb binder to the supermarket to stroll through the aisles when it is least crowded to see what kind of deals I can get.

Is this healthy? Probably not. People have suggested that I try out for Extreme Couponing but it is not going to happen. I don't have the time to sit and plan out each shopping trip with the detail that is required to get all those items for free and I don't have the storage room to stockpile the products. Also, I'm a food snob and wouldn't buy most of the food products that manufacturers provide coupons for. On the other hand, I've been able to save a lot of money on things such as shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, face wash, lotion, cleaning products, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. I've stocked up enough items that I probably won't have to do any shopping (other than for food) for another 4 months.

So this weekend, I've packed up all the coupons I would not use and even some that have expired so that I can ship them to military families overseas. I first heard about it from Extreme Couponing and then Couponomics posted a message on twitter that gave a link to a non-profit that arranges for these coupons to be sent overseas. Families overseas can use expired coupons up to six months old. This non-profit requests that any coupons sent to them not be more than one month old so that they can be sure that the coupons will be good when they reach the families overseas. It feels great to know that all the coupons I don't use won't crowd up my binder and will also get used to help those in the military.