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« July 2008 | Main | September 2008 »

Aug 30, 2008

Weekly Blog Round Up

Chandelier Heard around the DC Foodies blogosphere this week...Are Washingtonians as in love with cupcakes as Carrie Bradshaw was with Manolo Blahniks? Do they press their noses against the glass and whisper "hello, lover" to a devil's food cupcake topped with soft, pillowy icing? Apparently, the answer is an enthusiastic yes!

Hello Cupcake opened this week to throngs of people waiting with whetted palettes to buy as many as 4 (maximum at the time) of the store's palm-size confections. In fact, at one point about mid-afternoon, the inventory dropped so precipitously low that it caused Hello Cupcake to shutter its doors in order to bake more to meet the demand that kept coming in unrelenting waves.

The verdict so far? Hello Cupcake leaves Cake Love in its crumbs, and they sure do give Georgetown Cupcake a run for the money. Hint-get a punch card if you plan to be a frequent vistor.

In stark contrast to the buzz  (sorry for the pun, Buzz) created by the opening of Hello Cupcake, Lavender Moon Cupcakery opened at 116 S. Royal Street in Old Town Alexandria. Owner Peter Durkin's store is located next to Grape + Bean. By Indulgent Health Blog's account, he's off to a delicious and local start, with a Summer Peach Basil Cupcake made with peaches bought at the Alexandria Farmers market in the wee hours of the morning.

In even more cupcake news, Warren Brown's Cake Love is opening at National Harbor.

This week brought a couple of interesting and revealing interviews with 2 of DC's cherished chefs: Barton Seaver, formerly of Hook and advocate of local and sustainable food, and Tom Powers of Corduroy.

This week, the Washingtonian's Thursday interview was with Chef Seaver. Seaver's paean to mankind's great contribution to the world, champagne and bacon, gives insight into how his mind works. He credits his parents for his love of cooking along with supping in Adams Morgan and frequenting the Fish Market on Maine Ave. Seaver advocates small changes when it comes to eating sustainably, positing that "a 5-percent change is better than no change".

Chef Powers dished to Melissa McCart, of Counter Intelligence, on his most popular menu items, including his soups and poussin. Powers describes the new Corduroy's opening as "smooth", despite having the building inspected a mere 90 minutes before the doors opened for the first time. The Chef's staff is loyal, many of whom left the Sheraton with Powers to help start his new restaurant. Powers credits his efforts to keep his staff happy to doing what it takes to retain them for their loyalty. Perhaps none more loyal than Ferhat Yalchin, the General Manager of Corduroy. Yalchin told CI that Power's food "speaks for itself" and raves that his soups are "killer".

McCart also penned an article for the Washington Post's Food section this week. Front page and above the fold-congratulations, Melissa! The article featured local foodie Heather Shorter, and her love of pickling. Shorter has launched a part time business making pickles out of the kitchen at Rays the Classics, called Jam Tomorrow. She is currently making samples for restaurants and pickling cocktail ingredients for bartenders.

DC Foodies writer and blogger, Mike Bober, of Capital Spice, reports this week that the space formerly occupied by Murky Coffee in Capitol Hill is once again pumping caffeine through the veins of Hill residents as Peregrine Espresso. Bober reports that  owner Ryan Jensen and his wife, Jill , "will be running Peregrine as a coffee-lover’s paradise that will feature brewed coffee and espresso as well as pastries and cold drinks." Best of all, the only cup you'll need at Peregrine Espresso will be one that holds coffee.

For the first time, DC Foodies would like to name the chatter of the week. This intrepid and incredibly hungover Washington Post Wednesday Chat person wrote this:

Washington, D.C.: Tom,

I drank far too much last night. Told my boyfriend's dad I wanted to marry him (the boyfriend) and passed out in my office only to wake up at 6 a.m., go home and shower, and come back.

Anyway. I'm starving. Had a bottle of Gatorade - but need to eat. Somewhere in Penn Quarter, not Central - I don't share the joys of it. Please help, I am totally feeling like crap.

Tom Sietsema:"Paging Miss Hax, paging Miss Hax" ....

You can do one of two things. Be good to yourself with something light and easy (the Asian fare at Teaism comes to mind) or go for something fatty to absorb the booze (chorizo or duck at Jaleo maybe).

Just curious: Did the guy say yes? Was he even asked?

Oh, it gets even better!

About the boyfriend question: Oh god. He's in N.Y. with his family. I told his dad over the phone -- and I have no idea what happened in the conversation. The only reason I even remember is because a friend that was at the bar reminded me of it this morning.

Oh god.

If you need someone to eat with tonight and tell you the rest - let me know...oh man..

Tom Sietsema: I've got plans, but thanks!

 

To that wonderfully honest chatter-we hope whatever you ate soothed your soul. Chin up!

Categories: Weekly Blog Round Up
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Aug 28, 2008

Vin de Table, and a Bit of a Rant.

Working retail in a liquor store is one of those rare jobs where one gets to interact with every segment of the population; that's part of what I really love about it. One minute, a homeless guy, barely wearing a shirt, wanders in for a pint of Smirnoff — the next, a fat ex-hippie in duck-emblazoned Dockers, barely wearing his toupee, throws down an Amex black card for a $500 bottle of Champagne. I enjoy mostly everyone that comes in and try not to judge.

Then again, every once in awhile, you get a "charming" one; those customers my coworker indicates with the old waitstaff signal of arching his arms over his head, hands pointed with fingers touching his scalp (do a little visualization; you'll figure it out). These characters take every form, and vary in degree from irritatingly vague to aggressively overbearing. The very worst, in my mind, are the "Fromsies" — people who equate geographic proximity with pertinent knowledge. Most of these folks hail from California — no offense to you west coasters out there, but it is highly irritating to have one's proffers of help brushed off with a flick of the hand, and a condescending, "Oh, no: we're from San Francisco."

This past week, an older gentleman came in looking for suggestions for inexpensive wine for a casual get-together. With the dollar in a less than enviable state, I had recently been seeking out value alternatives to high end European wines, and had become quite fond of several French vin de tables. These wines occupy the lowest tier of quality in the French scale, and may indicate no vintage or regional designation on the label. However, this category also allows the winemaker a larger degree of freedom, and as more and more experienced winemakers have realized this, vin de table now represent a fantastic value. I offered said gentleman one of my latest favorites, to which he gruffly responded, "No! I lived in France for six years, so I know never to buy a vin de table!"

Avril_2 This is the equivalent of a driver taking his '89 Cavalier to the mechanic and turning down a refurbished alternator, claiming "I know better! I'm from Detroit!" Your mechanic wouldn't offer you the cheaper, better alternative if he wasn't a good guy, because in many cases, a rebuilt part (or a "lower grade" wine) will serve you just as well as something far more expensive. I guess this attitude comes down to a proclivity for assuming the worst in people; that, or the horrid reputation that mechanics and wine salesmen share for ripping people off.

In any case, rant over!

Littlejames1_2Instead, let me share some kick ass vin de tables that have come my way recently. At this time of writing, I am enjoying a glass Petit Vin d'Avril Blanc, a white from the southern Rhone valley in southeast France. Despite its humble rank, this wine was made by father-son team Paul and Vincent Avril of Clos des Papes, whose Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most esteemed wines in all of France. Made from 100% Marsanne (one of the region's native grapes), this wine gives off a crisp apple and mineral nose, and has an interesting tangy quality on the palate, thanks to an ample portion of aged wine blended into the mix. This is one of the more interesting whites you will find in the $14 range, and would make a great match with shellfish, chicken marsala, or any light meat or salad prepared with mushrooms. The same winery makes a great red by the same name for a few dollars more (about $18); a field blend of Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, and others, the wine has a pleasing fragrance of flowers and cherries, and a rich, full body.

Littlejames2_3 Another vin de table from the southern Rhone, Little James Basket Press, not only represents a great value, but also wins my award for Creepiest Label Ever (see photos: Littlejames3_8 that is supposed to be the winemaker's son!). Despite the dubious marketing, this most base offering from Chateau de Saint Cosme offers a great nose of cherries and cinnamon, along with a silky, well-integrated structure and full body, which belies its $13 price tag. For the money, I am hard put to think of a wine with wider food applications, being appropriate with anything from salmon to steak.

These are just a few of the high quality "table wines" out there — analogous wines exist everywhere, and they are only bound to become more common as European wine merchants become savvy to our dynamic but depressed domestic market. If your local wine shop salesman tries to turn you on to one of their ilk, make an effort to be receptive. Oh, and if he arches his arms above his head and snickers, consider a kind word or two.

Categories: Wine
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Aug 27, 2008

Grilling Cheese: Have You Tried Halloumi?

Halloumi With Labor Day approaching, my thoughts always turn to the grill.  And since my thoughts almost always involve cheese when it comes to food, I find myself craving grilled cheese.

Wait!  Don't click away just yet.  I know when I talk about 'grilled cheese,' it's a pretty safe bet that your first thought is of Kraft singles on white, browning in a pan with some butter (or, if you're the kind of college student I was, being browned on the counter by a judiciously applied iron).  But that's not the only way to grill cheese.

When I was working at Trader Joe's, I was introduced to halloumi.  This salty, chewy cheese is a product of Cyprus, though its origins are decidedly pan-Mediterranean.  Made from various combinations of sheep, goat and cow's milk, this cheese is defined by two main characteristics - its dense texture and its high melting point.  The combination of the two yields a cheese that is ideal for grilling, though it still requires a light touch to do it just right.

Before Halloumi generally comes soaking in brine, though there are grocery store varieties that come pre-packaged in roughly eight-ounce blocks that are vacuum sealed to preserve their moisture.  On the surface, it looks like a block of shelf-stable mozzarella with a smooth exterior and traces of the curds' natural texture throughout.  As soon as you cut into it, however, you'll see a very distinct difference.  Where mozzarella is soft and yielding to the knife, halloumi is dense with almost no give.  In fact, if you listen as you cut, you may even hear a slight squeaking as the knife slides through the cheese.

The squeak is a result of the curd being heated before the cheesemaking process begins, which toughens the curd and also makes the cheese more resistant to heat in its final format.  This is a cheese that you can literally just throw on the grill without fear of creating a runny mess.

And that simple presentation is probably the best way to serve halloumi.  Sliced thin (or thick, if you prefer), it picks up a great smoky flavor and beautiful grill marks when set directly onto a hot grill.  The paradoxical trick is that the grill needs to be brought up to a very high heat so that it can sear the cheese almost immediately.  Rub the racks down with olive oil first, and then crank up the temperature.  Ideally, you'd like to have your grill running at 400+ degrees before you place the cheese.

After The slices will immediately start to sizzle and pop, giving up some of the briny water it held inside, but you'll notice that it does not begin to dissolve into the oily mess that many other cheeses do.  In fact, it really starts to look more like a boneless pork chop than any cheese - call it the OTHER other white meat!  After two minutes on the grill, make sure you get in there quickly to flip the slices.  You'll get the great grill marks, but you won't have to worry about the cheese softening to the point that it becomes unwieldy.  Another minute or two on the other side, and you'll have a great snack - chewy, salty cheese that reminds me most of a firm mozzarella stick.  Make sure you serve it immediately - it loses some of its appeal as it cools.  As a side dish paired with mint leaves and watermelon, grilled halloumi makes a terrific accompaniment to milder grilled meats - cornish game hens, for example.

Because halloumi is a protected product of Cyprus in the United States, American producers tend to call their similar products by more generic names, like Ballard Family Dairy's "Idaho Golden Greek Grillin' Cheese" and "Gretna Grilling Cheese" from Blue Jacket Farms in Ohio.  Halloumi is available in various forms from specialty cheese shops like Cheesetique and Bower's Fancy Dairy Products, and from grocery stores like Whole Foods and Harris Teeter.  Prices can be a bit steep (in the neighborhood of $10 or more for an eight-ounce block), but this cheese makes a great conversation piece at your end-of-summer cookouts.  Give it a shot and have some fun with it!

Categories: Cheese
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Aug 25, 2008

Greek Festivals and Events Fall/September 2008

Jose Andres and team at Zaytinya, led by Chef Mike Isabella, will hold a Greek Modern Festival from September 8th through the 22nd.  Greek chef, Christoforos Peskias, from Athens, Greece will help Zaytinya celebrate contemporary Greek cuisine including special menu items, wine and cocktails.

Chef Peskias is renowned for his modern interpretation of Greek classics at 48 The Restaurant in Athens.  Trained in France, Spain and the U.S., Peskias has garnered international attention for his cooking. Accompanying Peskias will be his Pastry Chef, Theodoros Moisides. Moisides-inspired desserts will include yogurt and mastic panna cotta with strawberries and rose water sorbet and chilled fig soup with thyme, walnuts and yogurt sorbet.

Of course, no Greek festivity would be the same without ouzo. Santorini's Lava, a bloody mary with ouzo, promises to be a great way to start any meal. Fights of wine will also be offered for $25.

The public is invited to the kick off of The Greek Modern Festival at Zaytinya on September 8th, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Join Chefs Peskias and Moisides for Greek wines and inspired hor d'oeuvres. Reservations can be made by calling Zaytinya at (202) 638-0800.

Chef Isabella will also be featuring contemporary Greek cuisine at the Penn Quarter FRESH FARM market on Thursday, September 11th. Demo starts at 5 p.m.

The Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church of Baltimore, MD  will hold their 35th Annual Greek Festival from September 26th through September 28th, 2008. The festival will be held at the Maryland State Fair Grounds in Timonium, MD. Festival hours are listed as September 26th at 11 a.m. to September 28th at 7 p.m. The festival will feature authentic Greek food and pastries, beer, wine and soda. Admission is $5. See the festival flyer for more information.

Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Washington D.C. will hold their Annual Fall Greek Festival from September 26th through September 28th, 2008, from noon until 9 p.m. each day. The festival will be on the grounds of the Cathedral at 36th St. and Massachusetts Ave., NW. Saint Sophia's will offer authentic Greek food and pastries, including an indoor buffet, outdoor grills serving souvlaki, gyros, calamari and feta burgers, whole spit-roasted lamb, and apparently, no booze. A large Greek market will also be there for the enthusiastic foodie who wishes to create Greek delicacies at home.

Categories: Greek Festivals
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This Labor Day, workin' is for the hens

Image021Labor Day, the official end of summer and the unofficial end of grilling season.

Well, screw that!

The sun's still hot and my grill still works, so I'm going to keep on cookin'.


However, in the spirit of the holiday, I plan to labor as little as possible. (How else will the beer get drunk?) So I'm planning a pretty simple, straightforward menu that'll keep the friends and the missus happy, but won't keep me tied to the grill all afternoon.


By this time of the summer, the burgers and dogs have rolled across the grill, and chicken seems -- at least to me -- at bit done. That's why I'm thinking lemon grilled Cornish hens with a spicy grilled corn, onion and tomato salad.


It's an easy and pretty light menu. However, because everyone gets their own half bird, the dish is visually and physically satisfying. (The trick is that hens don't have that much meat, so even your most modest eaters won't be overwhelmed by the half bird.) The grilled corn salad is a sweet-heat compliment that works well with any kind of bird, but especially grilled hens dripping with tangy, sweet lemon juice.


I'll also serve this with soft taco shells, brushed with olive oil and warmed on the grill because they’re good.


If this dish takes you more than an hour start to finish (45 minutes if you have a gas grill) then something's gone wrong. Remember, the idea of Labor Day is to keep the labor to a minimum.


With that in mind, go forth and do little.


Lemon Grilled Cornish hens with Grilled Corn Salad

(Makes 4 servings)

Image060_32 Cornish hens

2 Meyer lemons (or regular lemons) halved

4 ears of corn with the husks on

2 sweet yellow onions cut into thick disks

1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 jalapeño

1 package of soft flour taco shells (three shells per person)

7 tbs. of olive oil

2 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes

Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste


If you have a gas grill, begin by prepping the hens. If you have a charcoal grill, get the coaImage073_4ls started and Image070_2 then work on the birds. Make sure you build your fire in the middle of the grill. You'll need the sides to be cooler so the birds' skin browns without burning and the vegetables cook properly.


Using kitchen sheers, cut the back bone out of the hens so they lie flat. Rub each bird with 2 tbs. of olive oil and apply the salt and pepper.


When the grill is ready (coals are ashed over and very hot or gas grill has been warming for 5 minutes and set to medium heat), splay the birds out over the hottest part oImage034_2f the grill skin-side up. Place the corn ears, still in their husks, on the sides of the grill. Do the same with the onion slices, lemons and jalapeño. 


Cover the grill and cook for 4 minutes. Open the grill, flip the birds so they're skin-side down and cook for another 2 minutes uncovered. Now move the birds to a cooler part of the grill, close the lid and cook for 20 minutes.


Open the lid and check the birds. If their skin has browned and crisped up, pull them, the corn and the jalapeño off the grill. Allow the birds to rest for 10 minutes.


Image035_2In the meantime, flip the onions and begin warming the taco shells. Toss as many on the hottest part of the grill as will fit, brushing them with a table spoon of olive oil and seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper. Warm each side for a minute or two per side, making sure they don't burn.


By the time you're done with that, the birds will be rested and the onions will be ready.


Image005_3 To make the salad, remove the husks from the corn and using a sharp knife cut the kernels off. Dice the onions and combine in a bowl with the corn, tomatoes and diced jalapeño (seeded for less heat, unseeded for more). Add the crushed red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss it all with the final two table spoons of olive oil.


Plate the corn salad and hens or serve it all family style. Just make sure to  split the hens in half, divvy up the lemons halves to squeeze over top and soak up the accolades.

Categories: Cornish Hens, Grilling, Recipes
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Aug 22, 2008

Weekly Blog Round Up

Fish_taco Heard around the DC Foodies blogosphere this week...Overall, Restaurant Week appeared to be a success this year, with many satisfied diners, and some left a bit dissappointed with issues regarding service and upcharges. As DC Foodies noted earlier, some restaurants are extending RW, so you still have an opportunity to participate when the crowds have thinned a bit.

Zagat Buzz has provided a list of D.C. restaurants that will be taking a break while the season is slow. The restaurants include Bastille, Charlie Palmers Steak House, CityZen, D'Acqua, Equinox, Komi, Redwood, Roof Terrace at the Kennedy Center, and Sonoma. Check here for specific dates.

Ahh, the perennial "who has the best" question. This week, Metrocurean casts her line for the answer to the question "who has the best fish taco?". Her picks include Taqueria National and Ceiba, while readers join in on where they like to get fish tacos--and where they dont! Personally, I like the Baja Fish Tacos at Taqueria Poblano in Del Ray.

Could it be that another talented DC chef is crossing the Potomac to join the ranks of Armstrong and Morou? According to the Washingtonian's Todd Kliman, Chef Robert Weidemaier, of Marcel's and Brasserie Beck, plans to open a new restaurant in a developing Kimpton property on King St. in Old Town Alexandria. The restaurant, with an 80 seat dining room, a 45 seat wine tasting room, and a wood burning oven, is expected to serve French fare. Look for an opening in February 2009.

On the heels of the excitement that was Throwdown with Bobby Flay-Mussels and Fries comes a DC area blogger cooking competition. Let's call it Throwdown Comfort Food. Lauren DeSantis of the Capital Cooking Show has challenged several area food bloggers to put their skills to the test. Competing with  Lauren will be April Fulton from The Food Scribe, Stephanie Gans from Endless Simmer, Alison McConnell from The Humble Gourmand, and Johnna Rowe from Johnna Knows Good Food. You can be a part of the competition by voting on which dish the contestants will make. Vote here.

Categories: Weekly Blog Round Up
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Aug 21, 2008

Bacon up that Bourbon!

Baconandbourbon_3 Whenever you are at a party, make it a point to strike up a conversation with a stranger — you never know what you might learn. A couple of weeks ago, Eliza and I attended a friend's birthday party at the Helix Lounge, a trendy hotel bar in the Logan Circle neighborhood. Over a few of the establishment's fanciful concoctions, we started to discuss the relative merits of various liquors with our table mates. One of our new friends (I can't remember her name — too many "Cool as a Cucumbers", I fear) turned us on to the existence of bacon infused bourbon. "Surely," I thought, "This cannot be real. I am not that good a person." A few days and a little internet research later, I confirmed that, despite my moral failings, the Lord has indeed blessed the world with so grand a creation — nature's two most perfect foods, fused as one!

Of course, the corporate fat cats of Big Liquor are too busy with their acai vodkas and lychee flavored cognacs to see the beauty of baconated bourbon, so if I wanted to indulge, I realized I would have to make it myself. The most prominent recipe on the net is one from the April 2008 edition of New York Bacon_4 Magazine. I adapted it as follows:

  1. Fry three pieces of bacon until done.
  2. Eat bacon, with pancakes.
  3. Pour approx. two tablespoons of now cool bacon grease into 375 ml of Jim Beam bourbon.
  4. Infuse at room temperature for approx. six hours.
  5. Straining Strain mixture through mesh into sealable container, and store in freezer overnight to separate fat.
  6. Strain liquor through coffee filter into clean bottle.

The result smelled... interesting, but I felt a bit hollow inside: I was all psyched up for bacon infused bourbon, dammit, not bacon-fat infused! Before jumping in for a taste, I thought I might take some liberties with the process. I purchased a second pint of Beam, and whipped up my own recipe:

  1. Baconsteeping Fry three pieces of bacon until WELL done.
  2. Do not eat bacon (pancakes are permissible).
  3. Place three slices of bacon, and pour ALL the grease, into 375 ml of Jim Beam bourbon.
  4. Leave on counter. Watch three episodes of Iron Chef Japan.
  5. Strain into sealable container, place in freezer overnight.
  6. Strain again through coffee filter... and repeat once more, for good measure.

There. Now I had two samples, just enough for a proper experiment. I tasted about one finger of each sample with a single ice cube, and then with a 1:1 ratio with Fever Tree Ginger Ale. Here are my results:

Sample One: New York Magazine Adaptation

Appearance: Slightly cloudy and yellow. Decidedly thicker looking than straight Jim Beam.
Nose: Maple and a savory/fatty component; less evident alcohol than straight.
Taste: Salty and quite heavy on the palate, with a pronounced note of used cooking oil. Alcohol and natural sweetness sublimated by fat. Finish lingers for several minutes with a buttery sensation reminiscent of taking a swig of old whipping cream from the carton.

With Ginger Ale:

Smell: Rancid. Cloying sweetness with the hint of something rotting.
Taste: N/A
(No joke, I actually did vomit when I first tasted this. The combination of fat with the sweet, carbonated liquid was horrifying. I tried again several hours later, but could not help but spit it out as soon as humanly possible).

Sample Two: Rob's Personal Recipe

Appearance: Orange/Yellow. Clear, but with visible particulate matter, despite numerous filtrations.
Nose: Instant aroma of smoke and burnt meat, with just a hint of bitter chocolate.
Taste: Light, with the traditional bourbon texture, though a bit less bite. Breakfast flavors of maple and bacon dominate the front palate, leading to a smoky, clean finish.

With Ginger Ale:

Smell: Spicy, salty, and smoky.
Taste: An odd combination of salty and sweet — almost reminiscent of scotch. Finish is clean, with similar flavors persisting.

Conclusions:

Okay, so the New York recipe was made with a particular cocktail in mind, and I realize now that there is a reason for that. When combined with maple syrup and other flavorful ingredients, this liquor may add a pleasant accent; as the primary player, it is abhorrent. I was quite pleased with the results of my second trial — I think the shorter contact time with the flavoring agent yielded a lighter, more fragrant product with a wider range of applications. Also, it didn't make me throw up like the other one did.

Though this experiment obviously didn't result in the ambrosia I'd anticipated, if you are a fellow fan of booze and meat, I suggest you give it a shot. Also, feel free to explore the wider world of meated beverages — personally, I see great potential in the field of chorizo-infused tequila...

Categories: Do It Yourself, Liquor
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Aug 20, 2008

Celebrate National Goat Cheese Month with Local Favorites

Img_3964 What's that?  You say you didn't know that August is National Goat Cheese Month?

Well you're not alone. The American Cheese Society doesn't seem to have put a lot of effort into promoting the designation, so the only references that come up when you look for "National Goat Cheese Month" are newspapers and other secondary sources.

Were it not for a recent event put together by Domasoteca and Cowgirl Creamery and an opinion poll over at Endless Simmer, I might have missed this holiday opportunity to raise awareness altogether.  But I didn't, and now you won't either.

D.C. Foodies can certainly choose to celebrate National Goat Cheese Month with national favorites like Humboldt Fog and Truffle Tremor from California-based Cypress Grove or Capriole's Old Kentucky Tomme from Indiana, but there are a number of truly impressive local goat cheeses that I would encourage you to check out:

Img_3957 Firefly Farms - This western Maryland-based farmstead produces a range of more than half a dozen goat cheeses, with textures and flavors that range from light and creamy to firm and earthy, with a blue cheese thrown in for good measure.  Their cheeses are all made from milk purchased from an Amish co-op, and their website offers a great selection of recipes that make use of their various cheeses.  You can find the folks from Firefly near the entrance to the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market every Sunday morning, or you can purchase their cheeses throughout the week at Cowgirl Creamery.

Img_3194Cherry Glen Farms - Though I was first introduced to Cherry Glen through their Monocacy Ash, I have since tasted their fresh chevre as well as their smoky, spicy Monocacy Chipotle.  Each cheese in their product line has its own distinct flavor, but I still can't get over just how fresh and soft (and runny!) the Ash was the first time I had it.  Still available at Cheesetique and Whole Foods, Cherry Glen's products can now be purchased at Bower's Fancy Dairy Products in Eastern Market, as well.  Availability still varies from time to time, but the crottins and other cheeses seem to be appearing with far more regularity recently.

Chevre500Apple Tree Goat Dairy - I haven't had the chance to try their products firsthand, but fellow DC Foodies writer Ramona (the Houndstooth Gourmet) is a big fan of "Tom the Cheese Guy" who makes a wide range of goat's milk cheese and soap (not to mention the milk itself) on his farm in Ridgefield, PA and sells them on Saturdays at the Del Ray farmers' market and again on Sundays at the West End Alexandria market.  Ramona's recommendation has made this small dairy's chevre one of the next cheeses on my "must try" list - this month seems like the perfect time to do so.

Pipe Dreams Fromage - For more than 15 years, Brad Parker has been making goat cheese using traditional methods he learned in France on his 16-acre farm in Greencastle, Pennsylvania.  It's still all about the cheese for him, as well - he doesn't have a website, nor does he really go out of his way to advertise.  Even so, many local chefs swear by his product and their demand is such that it's become pretty darn hard to find Pipe Dreams chevre in retail shops.  Cheesetique tends to sell out as soon as they get it in, as does Cowgirl Creamery.  I've only tried this cheese twice, most recently in an heirloom tomato salad at Blue Duck Tavern.  Each time, I was blown away by the smooth creaminess of the cheese and the flavor that was tangy but not as reminscent of 'barnyard' as many goat cheeses tend to be.  If you can find it (and believe me, it's worth a trip to a local restaurant like Blue Duck or Zaytinya in and of itself), THIS is the way to celebrate National Goat Cheese Month.

Categories: Cheese
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Aug 18, 2008

Restaurants Extending DC Restaurant Week

I just wanted to remind people the a lot of restaurants are extending DC Restaurant Week this week and some for the rest of the month or into September. Here is a list of the restaurants and their dates.

Beacon Bar and Grill - Aug. 11th through 31st - Reservations
Cafe Atlantico - Aug. 11th through 24th - Reservations
Co Co. Sala - Aug. 11th through 20th - Reservations
Circle Bistro - Aug. 11th through 24th - Reservations
D'Acqua - Aug. 4th through 17th - Reservations
Dino - Aug. 1st through 31st. - Reservation
Farrah Olivia - Aug. 1st through Sept. 22nd - Reservations
Ici Urban Bistro - Aug 11th through 24th - Reservations
Indique Heights - Aug. 1st through Aug 31st - Reservations
Jaleo - Aug. 12th through 24th - Bethesda Reservations, Crystal City Reservations, DC Reservations
Mie n Yu - Aug. 11th through 24th - Reservations
Mio Restaurant - Aug. 1st through Aug 31st - Reservations
Nage - Aug. 1st through Aug 31st - Reservations
Notti Bianchi - Aug. 11th through 24th - Reservations
Oyamel - Aug. 11th through 24th - Reservations
PS 7's - Aug 11th through the 30th - Reservations
Rasika - Aug 11th through 23rd - Reservations
Spezie - Aug 11th through 31st - Reservations
Tabaq Bistro - Aug. 1st through 31st - Reservations
Zaytinya - Aug. 11th through 24th - Reservations

Go to our DC Restaurant Week Menus post for information about what the different restaurants are offering.

Categories: DC Restaurant Week
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Aug 11, 2008

Make Your Own Granola Bars

If I had it my way, my daily breakfast regimen would consist of egg whites, and spinach. There'd be freshly ground coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and a croissant from Bread Line.

The reality of my daily breakfast is much different – I cram a granola bar in my purse as I rush out the door, down 14th Street. I get to work and make standard issue office coffee (oh, but wait! We have vanilla Coffeemate!). I start my day.

If you're like me and long for a taste of home made something (anything!) during the daily grind, all it takes is a little planning ahead and proper utilization of your leftovers. No, I'm not talking about “surprise omelets” (or funky casseroles or anything else you usually whip up with refrigerator refugees). I'm talking about granola bars.

A quick Google search will reveal about a hundred different recipes. My theory is that a lot of people are on to my little secret – you can make them with just about anything you've got lurking in your cupboard. All those little things left over from your Christmas cookies, office pot lucks and bread machine experiments. Oats, cinnamon, wheat germ, chocolate chips, almonds, dried fruit, walnuts, peanut butter, honey, agave nectar…you name it. They all add up to a lot of protein with a little bit of effort. And that's the most I could ask for on an average Monday morning.

After digging around in my own cupboards and then settling on the proper ratio of goo to dry ingredients, (because you have to make sure these things stick together properly) I give you
Granola bars:

1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (use natural or make your own peanut butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups toasted oats
1 cup chopped, toasted almonds
1 1/4 cup raisins

Generously grease an 8x10 inch pan and set aside. In a sauté pan, brown chopped almonds and oats till golden. Set aside.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine brown sugar and honey until they're completely dissolved. Simmer this sauce for 1 or 2 minutes, or until it gets bubbly. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and stir until combined. Add peanut butter and cinnamon, and stir until well combined (be sure to get all the lumps out.)

Add to this mixture the oats and almonds, wheat germ and raisins. Stir until the mixture is well blended. Pour the mixture into the greased pan and firmly press until the mixture is evenly distributed and level.
Bake for 10 to 20 minutes, but be careful not to burn. Keep an eye on the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the oven, and let the mixture cool completely before you cut the bars. While the mixture is cooling, press down a few times with a spatula to help it keep its form. The bars should be stored in an airtight container.

Categories: Do It Yourself, Recipes
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