After my 14 miler on Saturday, Matt and I spent the rest of the weekend relaxing and celebrating our 1 year wedding anniversary! As you know, we took our anniversary trip last weekend because it worked out better schedule-wise, so this past weekend, for our actual anniversary (the 13th), we didn’t really have any plans. I was just looking into making dinner reservations for us somewhere when I received an email from the PR team over the The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner. As part of a promotional blogger program, they invited me and a guest a complimentary Bed & Breakfast Package overnight stay at their hotel in exchange for sharing my thoughts and experiences here on the blog. I asked if Matt and I would be able to come stay on Saturday night to celebrate our anniversary, and they agreed. Perfect! A little stay-cation sounded awesome. A big thank you to them for hosting us!
The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner has a fun “Fall Epicurean Series” of cooking classes going on every Saturday this October, so since we were already going to be out there on Saturday, the PR team invited us to join in on this week’s class. Matt and I were all about it – we love stuff like this! So on Saturday at 3 p.m. we arrived at the Ritz, ready to learn and eat.
This weekend’s cooking class was all about international dishes. We were taught how to make 3 different delish ethnic dishes by a group of chefs at the hotel, and were also given wine pairings for each dish from Vincent Feraud, the hotel’s sommelier.
There were only 5 of us total at the cooking class, so it was really fun and intimate. All 3 of the others there had actually come to the previous week’s class (which was on “Hosting the Perfect Dinner Party” – hors d’oeuvres and fun cocktails) and loved it so much they came back for more!
Our first cooking demo was how to make a classic Persian dish, “Jewelry Rice” with chicken kabob, or Shirin Polo. The Ritz’s banquet chef, who is Iranian himself, led this section of the class, sharing that this dish is often made at weddings for good luck.
Those red berry looking things are actually called burberry seeds. I’d never heard of them! They look a lot like pomegranate seeds but were sweeter and the texture was closer to dried chopped cranberries. The dish also involved rose water and something called saffron juice – basically saffron leaves boiled in water and strained!
Yum. It was delicious – the rice itself was sweet but it was paired with a savory chicken (marinated in a mix of lemon juice, onion juice, olive oil, and saffron juice). Great combination! The chicken was really juicy, too.
Those are little tasting plates, by the way, not full dinner plates.
Next up on the list was Shrimp & Chicken Pad Thai! I’ve never made this at home before but it’s always been a favorite. Now that Matt and I know how easy it is to make, we’re going to do it more often!
Basically, you sauté some garlic, shallots, and shrimp in a pan with some oil, then add a couple eggs in there and cook just for a minute (leave them runny). Then you add in your noodles (which were already softened in water), cook until the noodles are soft, and add in some chili pepper, pickled turnip, tofu, and bean sprouts, plus some Pad Thai sauce. To make the sauce, mix: 1 C fish sauce + 1 C white vinegar + 1.5 C sugar, then boil it until it reduces slightly. The chef actually used dried red tofu for the dish (I’d never seen this before!), but apparently extra firm tofu works just fine, too. And this is the pickled turnip he used!
Apparently for these unique ingredients that the grocery companies they order from don’t have, the chefs at the hotel go to the Asian markets on their own to pick it all up. Matt and I asked what the best brand of fish sauce to buy at Asian markets is, and the chef recommended the one pictured below. We need a new bottle so we’ll keep a eye out for it! He said to look for fish sauce that’s about $6 – not too cheap. Apparently it’s made by fermenting salted anchovies in the sun! Kind of gross but it’s so vital for a lot of Thai recipes.
Here is the finished product! Topped with some crushed peanuts and garnished with lime.
The sommelier paired the Pad Thai with a Riesling to cut the spice – he told us that to pair with a spicy dish, look for a high acidity Riesling (Oregon ones are usually good), not a super sweet German Riesling. Interesting! Vincent (the sommelier) is from France and was really nice – Matt and I (and the others) had a lot of fun talking to him during the class. The wines he picked were all amazing, too.
Our last dish in the cooking class was Chicken Tandoori. I was really excited about this one because I love Indian food but have never tried to make it myself at home!
The key to this dish is the spice mix Garam Masala, which is Hindi for “warm” or “hot” and refers to a blend of ground spices from the colder climates of north India that add a sense of warmth to the palate. Apparently there are a lot of variations of Garam Masala (it can contain up to 12 different spices), but their signature mixture at The Ritz Carlton, Tysons Corner includes 6 spices. They mix equal parts nutmeg, black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, and chili powder. Easy enough!
To make the marinade for the chicken, they used 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. plain yogurt, 1 Tbsp. oil, 1 Tbsp. minced garlic, 2 Tbsp. Garam Masala, and some salt to taste. Marinate overnight and cook the chicken the next day!
The chicken is red because food color is typically added in Indian cooking, but I will leave that out when we make it at home. It was delicious – loved the yogurt dipping sauce, too.
Thank you to the chefs and sommelier for the great class! Our fee was generously waived, but the class is really reasonably priced for what you get – only $35 per person which includes a lot of food, great wine, AND cooking tips. If you’re interested in coming to one of the classes (which are 1.5 to 2 hours), more information is on their website. Next weekend is a “Thanksgiving 101” class, and the week after is a “Holiday Baking” class from the pastry chef! Unfortunately Matt and I are busy or else we would come back for those, too (on our own dime – definitely worth it!).
As for the rest of our stay at The Ritz Carlton, Tysons Corner – it was wonderful! I have stayed at Ritzs in the past and what really sets them in apart from other hotels, in my opinion, is the excellent service. From the second you walk in until the moment you leave, you feel special, and they really go above and beyond to make sure your expectations and needs are met and questions are answered. The beds are always really comfy, too.
On Saturday night, Matt and I were treated to dinner in the ENTYSE Wine Bar & Lounge in the hotel. I loved this restaurant – I feel like most fancy hotel restaurants are super stuffy and formal, but this lounge was the total opposite. It was lively and cozy and there was a Mariachi band playing, too. Really fun atmosphere! We were still kind of full from our cooking class earlier in the day, but enjoyed a lovely light meal. Great food and an extensive wine list, too!
On Sunday morning, Matt and I decided to check out the hotel gym before breakfast. My legs were tired from my 14 miler the day before, so I kept it casual and rocked the elliptical before doing some arm weight stuff and abs. You can play solitaire on their ellipticals – how cool is that?! It sure made the 20 minutes I was on there fly by.
After our respective workouts, we headed to the hotel’s bistro for breakfast. I had their signature dish, which is a crab cake eggs benedict with ham. It was so delicious! No hollandaise sauce necessary (I got it on the side but didn’t need it – it was plenty moist and flavorful without). I also had a big bowl of juicy berries. Hit the spot!
Thank you again to The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner for covering our expenses for this stay. I’d highly recommend this hotel to any of you looking for a getaway! If you’re in the area, check out their events calendar, too – in addition to the cooking class series they also have all sorts of fun things going on, like a scary Halloween tea, sushi making classes, regular live music, a gingerbread house decorating class and other fun holiday events, and more.
As for our actual anniversary, on Sunday, we spent most of the day relaxing, but on Sunday afternoon, it was time for tradition: we were ready to eat the top layer of our wedding cake!
It actually held up pretty well, huh?! A year ago, we wrapped it in saran wrap, then foil, and then put it in a ziplock bag and put it in my parents’ freezer. It still looked quite nice a year later, especially dressed up with a rose and a little baby’s breath (courtesy of my mom)!
My parents had me and Matt plus my grandmother over for the festivities.
This fruit tart was the backup plan in case the cake sucked.
Cutting the cake, one year later, in slightly less fancy clothes than last time we did this.
Plus champagne to cheers, of course.
The cake actually ended up still being pretty tasty! I was surprised it wasn’t totally gross after a year in the freezer… but most of us switched to the tart after a few bites, anyway.