Easter time for Little Miss Darling growing up in England was about a couple of things, the most important of which was chocolate. We were never a religious household, so church visits dressed in pastels almost never happened. In England, as you may know, it is traditional for older, (and sometimes distant), family members to bestow upon the little ones chocolate easter eggs. These confectionary wonders take the form of an oversized chocolate egg containing more chocolate treasures within. Always Cadbury's (unless you grew up in Islington and your name is Perpetua/Cosmo, then perhaps you received an organic green and black's misery basket), but always Cabury's for my sort.
Another popular tradition at after-school groups at Easter-time, was the Easter Bonnet Parade. Endless afternoons of fun, cutting and sticking paper and glitter to hats, sewing on silk flowers and enjoying making a terrific mess, before parading up and down the length of a chilly village hall to cooing Mums. This time of year used to be a favourite of mine - chocolate, arts and crafts and, not to mention, a two week school holiday. Bliss. However my enjoyment was somewhat marred one year when I totally forgot that I was supposed to make a bonnet to take with me to my Brownies meeting, (Girl Scouts), that evening for a parade. Panic-stricken, I begged my Mum to let me me skip it. My poor Mother, desperate for an hour's peace no doubt, informed me that despite my protestations, that I would, in fact, be attending the said event. Firmly adding something about 'being responsible', she threw down some card, paper, scissors and tape and told me I had half an hour. Nothing will ever surpass the embarrassment I felt as I paraded up and down that church hall wearing a piece of cardboard with a creme egg strapped to the top with tape. I still awake at night chilled. *Shudder* Silver lining though: I was allowed to eat the creme egg on the drive home, even though it was before dinner. Ahh the sweet power of invoking parental guilt.
This traumatic event marked the end of my bonnet-parading until last year when my photographer, Denton, suggested I take part in the annual NYC Easter Bonnet Parade on 5th avenue. Okay I thought, but I am not making the hat - lesson learned on that front. Enter Eve Beglarian. Eve is a downtown composer and dear friend of mine who has, ever since I've known her, had a crazy hat sitting up on a shelf in her studio. I asked her if I could wear said hat in the parade and she "of course!" When I asked where it came from, she told me that it had been a costume piece in a show she had composed the music for. Now, when you look at this hat (see below), it's hard to imagine how this could be used in anything, but if you've listen to Eve's music (and I strongly suggest you do) then you'll understand why my reaction was a shrug and a "mmmkay, cool".
That was last year. This year, same hat balancing precariously on my head, off I went to the parade. The hat was a hit - especially as I had fixed up the wings a bit with spray paint. When a journalist asked me what the hat was about I told her that I was "walking for one-armed barbies and associated charities". She dutifully noted it down.
After the parade it was time to head to DC to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival and a dinner at Fuego Cocina y Tequileria. (Try saying that with a mouthful of easter eggs).
After a "delightful" journey on the not-so-mega-bus, I arrived in Arlington, VA just outside of DC. Hungry and tired, my date and I made our way to the restaurant just as it began to rain. We hurried inside into the large downstairs restaurant which had a bar/canteen vibe. I feared my Louboutins and silk dress may have been over kill, but we were immediately whisked upstairs to a much more high-end looking section with an open kitchen. Having done yoga AND crossfit the day before I just about crawled up the sweeping staircase where we were met by our waiter who was so jolly and animated I felt that he would have been better suited hosting a tv show about waiters rather than actually being one.
He explained that, although the menu was Mexican, we were to expect much lighter fare than we were probably used to. No heavy sauces or gobs of sour cream everywhere. I was intrigued. We began by sharing the obligatory guacamole and their version of queso fundido which proved to be a combination of chihuahua and oaxaca cheeses baked in a cast iron skillet with crumbled chorizo on top. You're drooling just reading that aren't you? Good, you should. The salty, spicy chorizo against the creamy blistering cheese was perfection. Even the chips they served with, tasted light and crispier than other tortilla chips I'd eaten before. The guacamole was prepared so as to showcase the freshness of the avocado. In fact, fresh is a word Mr S and I kept coming back to throughout the night. There were hints of lime, salt, coriander and tomato but the avocado was the star.
Choosing an entree proved challenging as we gave consideration to almost everything on the menu, each new item seeming more enticing than the last. I opted for the lobster, shrimp and crab enchiladas with a side of grilled asparagus, whilst Mr S decided upon the special taco of the evening, a salmon taco served with a tomatillo and strawberry salsa, with an accompaniment of pickled veg. The enchiladas arrived in an adorable row of three, with a sauce that covered rather than smothered. The lobster and shrimp were fresh, plump and juicy nestled up in the cheese, that seductively oozed out of the tortillas, adding just the right amount of salty bite. The asparagus were charred and generously seasoned, making them the perfect addition. The tacos faired only slightly less well, with the strawberries feeling like an odd bedfellow to the salmon and pickled tomatillo. However, the salmon was perfectly cooked so we can forgive the the strawberries who erroneously wandered in from a nearby salad. The pickled veg was okay, but nothing special, although we were rather enjoying our game of 'hot pepper russian roulette' - biting into various peppers with abandon and almost immediate regret.
Now I am not really one for desserts, so bear that in mind when I tell you that the highlight of the meal for me was the trio of sorbets we decided to share. Blood orange, lychee and blackberry tea made up our selection and each spoonful was accompanied by a eyes-closed "mmm" from me. I was enjoying the blood orange so much that Mr S made the very wise decision to let me finish it off. (A fine idea if one wants to continue to be a food blogger's date).
The sugar still on our lips from the sorbet, the chef appeared bringing us a tray of petit fours. An unexpected and delightful treat! We were told they were; an almond wedding cookie, alfajores (mexican sandwich cookie), a jalapeno jelly dusted in sugar and a mexican magic bar. All were delicious with only the jalapeno jelly falling a little short of the mark - it could have done with being a little sweeter to stand up to the heat of the chili. It could also be that I am just not a huge fan of jelly, as Gareth from The Office once said "I don't trust the way it moves".
Fresh, flavourful and totally satisfying. We headed out into the rainy easter night and into a cab. Happy, sleepy and ready to put away my one-armed barbie easter bonnet away for another year.
Thank you to all of the staff at Fuego Cocina y Tequileria and to Simone Ink for organising the event.
Fuego Cocina y Tequileria
2800 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201