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August 2009

Weekly Blog Roundup

Huckleberries 500 Heard around the DC Foodies blogosphere this week...Move over giant pizza slices and falafel? According to the Washington Business Journal, Ray's Hell Burger will be opening a second location in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC. The new location on 18th St. could add more post-imbibing eating options to the neighborhood-but will it? Tim Carmen did some sleuthing earlier today and contacted owner Michael Landrum about the possible expansion. Currently, Landrum sees several obstacles to opening a Hell Burger in Adams Morgan, including the need for more municipal support. Right now, there is no commitment. Read more in Not So Fast: There's No Deal for a Ray's Hell Burger in Adams Morgan.

Young & Hungry reported that Douglas Hernandez, pastry chef at Central, will be heading over to Bibiana this fall, when it is expected to open. At the new Italian eatery, Hernandez will execute his own creations, beyond the inspired and somewhat  (locally) iconic "Kit Kat" bar that Michel Richard conceived.

For the latest inside scoop on the DC eats scene, sign up for the Washingtonian's Best Bites Blog Twitter feed. This week, tweets included a "rumor' that Mario Batali has penned a deal here in DC; possibly in the Olives space, and will the recently-shuttered Mark and Orlando's soon reopen as Eola?

The Going Out Gurus blog caught up with Top Cheftestant Mike Isabella of Zaytinya. Isabella, who is apparently being groomed as this season's sexist "villain", responded to his comments that when is comes to shucking clams, a "girl shouldn't be at the same level I am". "I'm a sarcastic person", Isabella explained. Jose Andres advised that Isabella not read the blogs. I'm sure he didn't mean this one, though.

Finally this week, President Obama floated the idea of putting up a small farmers market outside of the White House at Organizing for America National Health Care Forum. Representatives from Fresh Farm Markets welcomed the idea, although it is too early to comment on specifics. Moreover, Obama would like to see improved efforts to connect local farm products to schools in the area. In her All We Can Eat post, writer Jane Black told readers to look at next week's Food section for information on how this is already happening in Charlottesville, VA.

Room 11 - First Impressions

DC's Columbia Heights neighborhood is one of the city's most diverse and interesting. Unlike some areas that have gentrified beyond all recognition, Columbia Heights has remained diverse and vibrant, with the population representing the full range of age, race and income. The local businesses reflect that diversity -- big-box Target abuts the family dry-cleaners; fancy beer bars coexist with Peruvian chicken joints, etc. Columbia Heights boasts the most varied list of amenities in DC, and with the opening of Room 11 last week, you can add to that list a neighborhood wine bar. I swung by on Monday evening for a cocktail and a quick bite.

Room11_1 Brainchild of bar manager Dan Searing (formerly of the Looking Glass Lounge and the Punch Club, pictured at right) and Paul Ruppert, Room 11 is a sort of miniature hybrid of Cork and the Gibson, combining the best assets of a high end wine bar and a cocktail lounge, reset in the context of a neighborhood bar. While the restaurant has a sizable patio, the inside is decidedly cozy -- the dozen seat bar shares the space with a handful of tables, and that's about it. That said, despite a surprisingly large Monday night crowd, the space did not feel cramped, and the clientele was not inclined to elbow. With the paint just barely dried, I was surprised to find the place so homey; the brushed-aluminum bar, dark brown cabinets, plain red shop stools and hardwood tiled floor give the place a comfortable, lived-in feel.

The bar itself hosts an esoteric array of lesser-known spirits including local rye, French Calvados and Martinique rum. Dan is also using Room 11 as a sort of Frankenstein's Lab for booze; a collection of Room11_3 ominous looking jars above the bar hold Dan's supply of green walnut infusions (which should be ready by Christmas), and he's already got a homemade clementine bitters doing duty on the rail. Room 11's 24 item wine list covers all the bases, from Spanish Verdejo to California Cab, with most selections priced in the very reasonable $6-$8 range. That night I forewent the vino, though, and just had myself a cocktail. That night, Room 11 was featuring the 'Ti Punch, a simple concoction of Rhum Agricole (rum made from sugar cane instead of molasses), cane syrup and a hint of lime. Though a bit strong at first, as the ice melts the cocktail takes on a lovely green and floral nose, and even a bit of nuttiness, without any of the cloying sweetness typical of contemporary rum drinks. Go by and try one for $8, or feel free to ask Dan to whip you up something special -- he is a consummate and adventurous mixologist, and his creative take on cocktails is sure to become one of the bar's core assets.

Room11_2 Chef Ben Gilligan has put Room 11's undoubtedly small kitchen to surprisingly efficient use. For $13 you can select three options from the sizable meat and cheese menu, which includes the usual array of goodies both foreign and domestic. At the Punch Club, Chef Gilligan was famous for his paninis, which may be had here at $10, with house salad. No Quiznos style sandwiches these, Room 11's sammies include such offerings as Cheese & Chutney and Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower, which is totally on my list for the next visit. For those in need of heartier fare, the lamb cutlets (pictured right, $10) smelled fantastic, and the trout and fennel salad ($8) was both sizable and exciting, featuring a great melange of oily, salty and sweet flavors. As for afters, I will sum up Room 11's dessert menu in three words: Honey Goat Cheesecake. Would that I had had the time!

No doubt, Room 11 is a great boon to the Columbia Heights drinkin' community, but I definitely consider my trip as a non-local well worth it. Friendly staff, good drinks, cheap wine, and plenty to nibble on -- what's not to love? Stay tuned for a full review after I really get to sink my teeth in.

Room 11
3234 11th St. NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 332-3234
Mon - Thurs: 5pm - 1am
Fri - Sat: 5pm - 2am
Brunch: Coming Soon

Grilled Chicken: Twelve months in the making

Image044A chicken recipe. Of course I have a chicken recipe.

I mean, I should have a chicken recipe, right?

In the year or so I've written this grilling column, I covered blood sausage, octopus, pork butt, eggs, oysters, fish, shell fish, French toast, and giant brats. Surely somewhere amongst all that I did a chicken post.

Well, not really.

A while back, my buddy Jason was in town to do a book signing at the American History Museum (Jason's a Lincoln historian, which is interesting until you're two hours into a yarn about Mary Lincoln's shopping habits. That's about the time I wish Booth would sneak up on me.). Jason spends much more of his time thumbing through old records than in front of a grill. So he asked me if I had a recipe for grilling chicken.

Of course I do. I'm the grilling guy and chicken is one of the most common meats Americans cook, indoors and out. Then I checked the Website. In the past 12 months, I've covered chicken twice. Twice! And neither post had anything to do with grilling.

So, time to address chicken.

During Jason's visit, I also learned that he'd never tried thyme. Thyme, people. It's one of the most common spices in our collective cupboard. It's not like the guy hadn't tried grains of paradise. Jason hadn't tasted an herb only slightly less popular than oregano. (To be fair, I introduced Jason to shrimp six years ago. Afterward, he was convinced he could feel them in his stomach. But still.)

This put me on a mission. I needed to come up with a recipe for grilled chicken and thyme. And as good as dried thyme is, I would use the fresh stuff growing in my backyard. The problem is, depending on weight, a standard chicken takes about 45 minutes to an hour on the grill. By then, the fresh thyme would be charred and denuded of any flavor. Instead, I decided to use an old barbecue technique. More on that in a minute.

Let's talk chicken. Not long ago, I started shopping at the H St. farmer's market. It's small, but the lineup of purveyors is solid. Among the vendors who show up every Saturday is a Mennonite farmer and his sons. The guy brings all kinds of beautiful cuts of meat, including free-range chicken.

Admission: Until that day, I had not cooked a free-range chicken. I'm all about the free-range movement, but I'm lazy and was happy with the birds I bought at Eastern Market and the grocery store. Then I read Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall's excellent book on butchery and sustainable farming, The River Cottage Meat Book. The guy lays out all the moral and culinary reasons we should eat free-range raised animals and support the farmers and butchers who provide the products to us.

So I bought a $16 free-range chicken and tossed it on the grill for an hour ... and served if half cooked to my buddy Columbo and his wife (Columbo, by the way, has never let me forget the first time I attempted beer-can chicken many years ago. The outcome was much, much worse.)

Turns out, thanks to all that walking around, free-range chickens have denser meat than the cage-raised birds we're accustomed to buying and eating. Consequently, free-range birds need to cook a lot longer.
All this is a long-winded way of setting up my latest recipe: grilled free-range chicken with thyme.

Image020 As I said, an hour on the grill will destroy fresh thyme. So instead of adding the herb before I cooked the bird, I incorporated it afterward - by seasoning my cutting board.

It's common when doing barbecue to season your cutting board with salt, pepper, butter and whatever other seasoning you're using before carving the meat. That way the juices mingle with the seasonings, and the seasoning adhere to the interior of the meat.

The same principle applies here. I simply covered my chicken with canola oil, salt and pepper, and threw it on the grill for an hour and 40 minutes. After I pulled it off and let it rest, I drizzled quality olive oil onto my cutting board and shook some salt and pepper over top. Then I covered it all with about a handful of thyme.

Image012 When it came time to carve the chicken, I set the bird on the board and slid my knife through the crispy skin exterior to the pool of seasonings beneath the bird. The result was a perfectly grilled chicken coated in olive oil and thyme. Just for good measure, I squeezed a lemon over top and scattered a little more thyme.

The chicken was delicious and the thyme works great with it. However, for all the moral virtues of raising chicken in a free-range environment, the flavor didn't translate. And when you're spending twice as much and cooking it nearly twice as long, you expect more than a clear conscience at the end of the meal. Unfortunately, my free-range chicken tasted like every store-bought bird I've cooked on the grill. 

There you have it, a chicken recipe. It may have taken a Lincoln historian, a Mennonite, a Polk County blogger, and a James Beard Award winning book, but I finally produced a grilling recipe for one of the most common foods we eat.

Image045 To go with my ubiquitous meat, I picked up a ubiquitous beer: pilsner. Hands down, pilsner is the most popular beer style in the world, thanks in large part to the Belgian pilsner brewed in St. Louis, Mo. But don't let that "American pilsner" fool you, pilsner tastes good. You just have to keep the rice and corn out of the malt. Well, Monteith's brews the best pilsner I've had in a long time. The New Zealand brewery's golden pilsner is rich and slightly crisp, perfect for these sweaty D.C. days. It also pairs well with the subtle flavors of a dish like grilled chicken and thyme. As much as I love IPAs, the hoppy flavors would overwhelm the thyme. Now, because pilsner is the world-wide favorite, there are plenty to choose from, just steer clear of the Belgian stuff.

Grilled free-range chicken with thyme
(Makes 2 large servings or four small)

1 4 lb. free-range chicken (if you don't use a free-range bird, reduce the cooking time down to about an hour)
1/4 cup of fresh thyme
1 lemon (optional)
Canola oil
A good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

To get started, pull the chicken out of the refrigerator so it can loose some of its chill, and start your grill. For this recipe, you will be doing all indirect grilling. That means if you're using a charcoal grill, set up your fire to one side of the grill and plan to grill the chicken on the other side. If you're using a gas grill, light all your burners, but be ready to shut the middle ones down when you put the bird on (this way, the middle grates will be nice and hot when the chicken goes on.)

Butterfly the chicken by removing the backbone (you can have your butcher do this for you), thoroughly coat the skin with canola oil, and season generously with salt and pepper.

Image004 When the grill is ready, place the chicken on the cooler side of the grate breast-side up (if you're using a gas grill, place the chicken in the middle of the grill, turn the center burners off, but keep the left and right burners on). Shut the lid and look to maintain a temperature of about 350 degrees.

Entertain yourself for an hour and 40 minutes.

When you open the lid, the skin should be golden brown and crispy. Remove the chicken from the grill and allow to rest for 15 minutes. In the meantime, coat your cutting board with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper and most of the thyme. Transfer the bird to the board and cut it up. If you want, squeeze a lemon over top (few things are better than hot chicken and fresh lemon juice).

Before serving, drizzle a little more olive oil on top and scatter the remaining thyme. You can either serve the chicken rustic style straight from the cutting board or transfer it to a platter. Whatever you do, make sure you drag the meat through that oil and seasoning. Doing so may make the extra money and time seem worth it.

Weekly Blog Roundup

Alexandria WE market med. Heard around the DC Foodies blogosphere this week...  Start your weekend with a cup of freshly brewed coffee at Mid City Caffe on 14th St. According to Metrocurean, the shop above Miss Pixie's is scheduled to officially open tommorow morning at 8 a.m. Mid City Caffe will be serving Counter Culture Coffee and offer free WiFi.

Congratulations to local blogger, The Arugula Files, for being featured this week in Washingtonian's Blogger Beat. TAF shared her love of local farmers markets, and her successes, along with failures, in the kitchen. Among her recommendations for other aspiring cooks and foodies are to have a very sharp knife, use fresh herbs, and in-season brussel sprouts, which can be downright delicious.

Lately, The Bitten Word has been taking full advantage of summer's crop of watermelons. First, the duo made Tequila-Soaked Watermelon Wedges described as "what Martha Stewart might take to a frat party". Yet the dish turned out to exude simple sophistication. Next, they made Pickled Watermelon Rind, using the leftovers from the aformentioned dish.

Last week, DC Foodies reported that the opening of Kora in Crystal City was going to be delayed until sometime this week. Now, Washingtonian's Best Bites Blog gives us an early look at the new Italian eatery. Chef Morou Outtara's wife Heather warmed the space with deep purples, while his brother, Amadou, is in charge of a menu that aims to provide familiar comfort food such as spaghetti-a favorite of the restaurant's three-year-old namesake. Check here for more details, and a video interview with Morou Outtara.

Finally, DCist reported that DC farmers markets are among the best in America. Making the Top 20 list of smaller markets are Smart Markets at Mason in Fairfax, Crossroads Farmers Market in Tacoma Park and Bloomingdale Farmers Market in DC. 

Spy Diner

SPYCART1 Consider the food cart. These ubiquitous urban fixtures exist for a reason — SURVIVAL. The urban jungle is a harrying place, and crowded, so sometimes one just has to resort to foraging. This isn't to say that cart food can't be great cuisine —  hell, I and many of my fellow GWU graduates owe our very lives to Manouch and his magical hot dog cart, rendered all the more fantastic for it's being open till four in the morning. Though I was less than a gourmand in my college years, I have to say that Manouch worked some real magic in that tiny kitchen, as I'm sure he continues to do to this day. A true chef is not the sum of his tools, but rather an amalgam of skill and a love of the craft; good food can be made anywhere, from the four star Michelin kitchen to the camper's sterno can. Knowing this, I was more than a bit intrigued when I heard about Spy Diner.

Late last month, the good people of DC Central Kitchen teamed up with Stir Food Group (the creative minds behind Zola and Potenza) in an innovative venture in culinary philanthropy. For twenty years, DCCK has been collecting our city's massive load of wasted foodstuffs, and turning it into good, wholesome meals for those in need -- today, the group reprocesses more than one ton of unused food donated by local businesses everyday. In recent years, the group has expanded its aim to attack DC's unemployment problem, and with its Culinary Job Training program it has educated and placed hundreds of our city's struggling citizens in local commercial kitchens, where they may thrive and feel needed.

Spy3 Spy Diner is DCCK's newest venture to this end. The creative minds at Stir provide the recipes, and the burgeoning chefs fresh from DCCK's Culinary program take it from there. I'd been meaning to swing by for awhile, and professional reasons put me in just the right neighborhood yesterday, so I made an impromptu visit.

The corner of 9th and F St was surprisingly quiet at 11:40 am, so I had the good fortune of a lineless lunch. The cart itself is your standard model, if a bit newer, bearing the usual array of propane burners and refrigerated bins. The man behind the counter greeted me kindly, and I perused the menu, which I have transcribed below:

(Served 8:00 - 11:00 am)
Egg Sandwiches with cheese - $2.75
w/ Taylor Pork Roll or Ham or Bacon - $1.75
served on a bagel or housemade roll

Fresh Baked Muffins - $2.00
Housemade Coffee Cakes - $2.50
Bagels (grab and go) Cream Cheese, Jelly or Butter - $2.50

Nantucket Nectars Juices - $2.25

2 Sliders

Lamb Meatballs
Romaine Red Pepper Slaw and Goat Cheese Aioli - $6.00

Roast Beef Melts
Emmanthaler Sauce, Carmelized Onions, Horseradish Bun - $4.00

BBQ Pork
Coleslaw, Salt & Pepper Bun - $4.00

All American Burger
Romaine Pickle Slaw - $4.00

Tomato & Brie - $4.00

Slider Combos
Add a Bag of Chips and a Soda or Bottled Water for an Additional $1.50

Soup of the Day - $3.75
Chips - $1.00

Cookies - $2.50
Cupcakes - $2.50
Rice Crispy Treats - $2.50

Nantucket Nectar Juices - $2.25
Sodas - $1.50
Bottled Water - $1.25

Spycart2 Those of you who have been to Zola will probably recognize the slider selections, as they are pulled straight from the bar's awesome happy hour menu. For my undying love of caramelized onions, I ordered the Roast Beef Melts, and waited patiently for my order. In the meantime, I struck up a conversation with my host, a man by the name of Derrick*. 

Derrick has been in the program for about 11 months, and it turns out that I came by on his very first day on the job. Despite this, he aptly and confidently started preparing my meal, even amidst my incessant questioning. Derrick is a recovering alcoholic, and wasn't shy to tell me this. We got to talking about food, and DC chefs —  Derrick has met a good number of them (lots of local chefs donate time to DCCK), and is happy for the experience. While he was topping my beef off with the Emmanthaler mousse, I asked my chef what he thought of the program. After some thought, Derrick replied that it was great, for numerous reasons, but mostly because "it makes you want to serve instead of just taking." I took my lunch, bid him adieu, and promised to come back.

As far as the food goes, I gotta say, you are not likely to do much better downtown for less money. The portion of sliced beef was more than satisfactory for the price paid, and it was cooked to perfect temperature. The caramelized onions boasted just the right combination of sweetness and earthiness, and Spy4 the Emmanthaler sauce was generously applied, and decadent. This, for $5.50 with drink and a bag of chips? Sure, Potbelly's, Subway, and the like can give you a much larger pile of crap for about that price, but I seriously doubt it would be as filling or satisfying. I was glad I left a tip, and honestly wish I'd left more.

It feels great to lend one's money to a good cause; to use one's power as a consumer for good, rather than wasting it on convenience. But ya know, I am an inherently selfish creature, and I ain't gonna eat crappy meals ad nauseum for altruism's sake. Fortunately such a dilemma did not present itself here: as far as I can tell, DCCK is doing a wonderful job with their students, and they and their partners should be lauded for their efforts. If you live or work in the Chinatown region, and value good food and good, well, values, take a trip to the little food cart at 9th and F. As for me, I plan on making good on my promise to Derrick in the very near future.

Spy Diner
Northeast Corner or 9th and F St. NW
Breakfast: Monday - Friday: 8:30 am to 11:00 am
Lunch: 11:00 am to 5:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday Hours: 11:00 am to 6:00 pm

* If you are reading this, sir, please let me know if I spelled your name wrong!

Foodie To-Do List: Victory Garden Tour, Spike'd Cinema and Outstanding in the Field

TodoAs part of an ongoing effort to alert you, the readers of DC Foodies, to all of the really cool food-related events, classes and opportunities throughout the Washington Metropolitan area, we give you this week's edition of the Foodie To-Do List.

Each Wednesday, we give you a heads-up on a few of the upcoming events that we think look particularly interesting.  This week, we've got:

Vegetable Gardens Victorious: A Brief Look at Vegetable Gardens Through the Ages at the National Museum of American History:

Weather permitting, this tour of the museum's WWII-era vegetable garden will be led by a horticultural staff member who will talk about Victory Gardens and 'show and tell' about images from the Smithsonian's Archive of American Gardens.  A real treat for history buffs and home gardeners alike.

Thursday, August 13th
Tour begins at noon

Smithsonian's National Museum of American History
Enter through the Stars and Stripes Cafe on the museum's lower level

The grow-your-own culture is alive and well these days, but this is a great opportunity to reconnect with an earlier era of American locavorism.  Admit it - you didn't even know this was here.

The tour is free, as is admission to the museum.  Hope for sunny weather!

Spike'd Cinema at the Capitol Skyline Hotel:

Top Chef Spike Mendelsohn has had such a great response to his "Spike'd Sundays" poolside at the Capitol Skyline that they've decided to keep the fun going into the night with poolside movies from now into September.  Watch the flick from your favorite float or pull up a deck chair while you enjoy drinks and burgers grilled by Mr. Good Stuff Eatery himself.

Sundays, starting August 16th
Spike'd Sundays (the pool party) begin at noon, but the movie won't start until dusk (figure 8 or 8:30) 

Capitol Skyline Hotel
10 I Street SW

Burgers and drinks with the beautiful people poolside, followed by an outdoor we really need to sell you on this one?  If so, how about this: the series kicks off with "Anchorman," Will Ferrell's cinematic gem.  Keep it classy, DC.

$10 gets you in with access to the pool and a free burger or veggie burger (the Going Out Gurus indicate that you need to arrive before 4 for this deal).  Drinks generally run less than $5, and additional food is available for purchase. 

Outstanding in the Field farm dinner with Chef Bryan Moscatello of Zola on Labor Day:

Outstanding in the Field, now in its 10th year, is an opportunity for locavores all over the country to celebrate down on the farm.  This year's DC-area dates are taking place over Labor Day weekend at Ayrshire Farm, and two of the three have already sold out.  Only the Labor Day dinner is still available, and tickets are almost gone.

Monday, September 7th
3 PM

Ayrshire Farm
Upperville, VA

"Outstanding in the Field events feature a leisurely tour of the hosting farm followed by a five course, farm-style dinner at our long table set in a scenic spot. Dinner is accompanied by a wine paired with each course. Diners are joined at the table by the farmer, food producers, a winemaker and other local artisans associated with the meal."  Sounds like an ideal way to bring summer to a close.

$189 per person for the tour, the meal, the wine pairings and the atmosphere.  Tickets can be purchased online through the website,


If you would like your events posted here, please email [email protected] with the event info.

Cooking 201: Moving beyond the recipe

Susan1 I cook a lot. For a guy who works a day job that has nothing remotely to do with food, I spend a good amount of time focused on food and monkeying around in kitchens.

If I'm not working on something for this Web site, I'm cooking for the missus, feeding friends, or helping other people learn to cook at the D.C. cooking school, CulinAerie.

All this is to say, I'd better know what I'm doing, especially if I'm going to take a two-day cooking class full of people who read this Web site.

A while back, Susan Watterson, who co-owns CulinAerie, mentioned that she was considering running a two-day advanced cooking class similar to the one she taught for years at L'Academie in Bethesda. I liked the idea and knew there were a lot of folks who'd be interested in that level of instruction as well. Although I write recipes and use others' from time to time, it's no replacement for knowing the fundamentals of cooking. Certainly, many people happily rely on recipes and cookbooks -- and there's nothing wrong with that -- but there's no replacing the feeling of accomplishment when you step into the kitchen and prepare a meal without someone else's instruction (feel free to keep using mine).

Being a pain in the ass, I pestered Susan into putting the class on the calendar. In turn, I wrote up a preview for this Web site. Hell, I used my little soap box to encourage people to show up, improve their cooking skills and learn to cook beyond the safe confines of recipes. I would show up, too, to go through the class as a student and chronicle the experience for a future post (this one). 

Class1 So, on a recent weekend, me and 20 other students spent two days listening, questioning and cooking under Susan's direction. We chopped, diced, and julienned. We learned how to make stock and debone a chicken, oyster and all. We filleted whole fish and turned shrimp into mousse. We rolled pork, and cooked lamb korma.

Before setting the lot of us loose with knives and hot pans, Susan talked about the products we were dealing with and the importance of proper technique. The lectures were equal parts anatomy, chemistry and physics, all of which had a philosophical purpose: to transcend the recipe. Recipes should be treated like suggestions, not mandates. If an ingredient doesn't work, you should know how to replace it. If a sauce breaks, you need to be able to fix it.

"This is a class where you unclench your fist and let go of the recipe," she said. "You have to use your brain when you cook."

Being a proper cooking class, there was no escaping French techniques. The brunoise, the mirepoix, the court bouillon were all covered. But so too were stir frying, wontons, fish sauce and curries.

Class3 When the lectures ended, the cooking began. Each day we prepared and cooked four dishes in the morning and four dishes in the afternoon. That made for a lot of practice. It also made for a lot of food. And once we were done cooking, we could eat the results. So we ate ... and ate ... and ate. At one point it crossed my mind that if Bobby Flay ate everything he cooked on Iron Chef, he'd look like Mario Batali.

Not surprisingly, everyone who signed up for the two-day course had cooking experience. Some of it was years in a home kitchen, like Merrill Brown, who was visiting from Lakeland, Fla., and taking the class with her sister Helen Ryan. Other students, like Gene Moses, had a background in the food industry. Gene had catering and front-of-the-house restaurant experience, but wanted to learn more professional cooking techniques.

Class2 In my preview of the class, I wrote that I expected to know a little and learn a lot. That was about right. I can dice an onion and julienne a carrot (though I screwed it up the first time). I know how to debone a chicken (though I didn't know how to take the meat off the legs and thighs without my teeth). I can cook a scallop, and pan fry fish (though the sauces we made to accompany them were revelatory to me). We covered dry heat cooking, which I'm good at (I am the grilling guy), as well as moist heat cooking, which I have less experience with (I don't poach much).

For the most part, everyone seemed follow Susan's instructions pretty well. Sure, some of the deboned chicken meat looked more like paste than poultry, and we might've gone ape shit with the sherry (Susan's term, not mine), and a few sauces did go south somewhere between the pan and plate (I completely screwed up my stir fry, which is particularly pathetic if you consider I've written newspaper columns about how to stir fry). But there were clearly more successes than failures.

And like most everyone else who took the class, 14 hours of instruction wasn't enough for me.

Since CulinAerie opened last November, Susan and fellow co-owner Susan Holt have focused their classes on beginning cooks. With that base established, Chef Watterson is planning more advanced courses. The next two-day class is already scheduled for Sept. 26 and 27, and a 12 week course is in the works for the fall.

"The good thing about cooking is there's no ceiling," she said. "There's always more you can learn."

Want to see more photos from the class? Check them out here.

Weekly Blog Roundup

Morou Heard around the DC Foodies blogosphere this week...  Pizza fans and Italian food lovers who have been awaiting the opening of Kora may soon have their chance to be among the first to sample the fare in Chef Mourou Ouattaro's (formerly of Farrah Olivia) new restaurant in Crystal City.  Reports of an opening earlier this week were a miscommunication, but according to Gut Check, Ouattaro's restaurant could be opening as early as today - but perhaps not until Monday or Tuesday. I'd say give a call first.  Writer and blogger, Kelly DiNardo, wrote about the experience of butchering a whole pig on her eponymous site this week.  After meeting Nathan Anda (Red Apron Butchery) at a Virginia farm-to-table- dinner, she asked the chef if she could watch the process of turning a whole pig into 98% delicious, useable parts. You'll never look at a piece of porchetta quite the same way again.

From Komi to Marvin continued to chow through the Washingtonian's Top 100 Restaurant list this week with a visit to Art & Soul.  FKtM enjoyed Art Smith's "filibuster buster" deal-a 3 course lunch for $24 that is meant to please your palate, and keep you on schedule.  The fried chicken and sausage gravy was described as "amazing".  Too full after the 3-piece chicken main course, FKtM got 2 precious cupcakes to go-devils food and mango-lime.

Can you ever get too much bacon-flavored food?  Not long ago, the answer seemed to be a resounding no. From bacon brittle to candied bacon, the porkification of savory and sweet foods was everywhere.  But perhaps, the tide of popular opinion is turning. I'm officially declaring bacon used in conjunction with desserts both trite and just plain gross", declared Don Rockwell, as bacon finally made its way onto the community's "Trite Food List".  Jason Andelman (Artisan Confections) was in agreement, stating "I finally tried Mo's Bacon Bar by Vosges. Ummm, not a fan."

Coincidentally, Metrocurean reported on Buzz Bakery's cupcake of the month-devil's food chocolate with peanutbutter bacon icing and a topping of? You guessed it-bacon! Mouth-watering or stomach-turning? You decide.

Cupcakes are still going strong in the DC region, and this week eat Washington has a review of the newly-opened Something Sweet, in Cleveland Park across from Two Amy's. Cupcakes are $2.75, and you can also treat yourself to frozen yogurt. ice cream, baked goods and milk shakes.

Foodie To-Do List: Women Chefs, DC Beer Week and Julia Child's Spy Days

TodoAs part of an ongoing effort to alert you, the readers of DC Foodies, to all of the really cool food-related events, classes and opportunities throughout the Washington Metropolitan area, we give you this week's edition of the Foodie To-Do List.

Each Wednesday, we give you a heads-up on a few of the upcoming events that we think look particularly interesting.  This week, we've got:

"Unite for a Bite" with Women Chefs and Restaurateurs to Support Aspiring Women Chefs:

Women Chefs & Restaurateurs is hosting their second annual night of dining out in support of their scholarship program for women in the Culinary Arts.  Participating restaurants will donate 5% of their sales on Thursday, August 13th to the cause

Thursday, August 13th

Participating Restaurants include: Hank's Oyster Bar (DC and Old Town locations), CommonWealth Gastropub, Pizzeria Paradiso (Georgetown and Dupont locations), The Majestic, Bastille, and Argia's.

Washington has always had a lot to brag about when it comes to women chefs and restaurateurs; we're pretty fortunate in that respect.  DC's own Chef Jamie Leeds begins her tenure as WCR's national President this fall - help her start off on a strong footing by showing your support and having a good meal at the same time.

No cost to you - the restaurants will be serving their usual menus and then donating the proceeds to WCR.  So splurge a little, knowing that you'll be helping the cause just a little bit more.

DC Beer Week - Brews Around Town:

DC Foodies writer Rob Rutledge has already walked you through the basics of Beer Week, but we thought this week-long brewfest bears repeating.  Events all over town beckon, ranging from brewers' dinners to baseball games.

Sunday, August 16th through Friday, August 20th. 

Participating bars, restaurants and other venues.  Check out Rob's writeup for a list of events, but know that more are being added every day.

A great way to celebrate the Dog Days of Summer, DC Beer Week '09 highlights some of the best local and international beers in the settings that serve them best - Belgian gastropubs, pizzerias, and even one of the only breweries here in DC.

Some events have a cost (cover charge, ticket, etc.) and some are open.  Check with the hosting establishment beforehand to make sure. 

International Spy Museum's Cocktail Reception at Zola Wine & Kitchen in Honor of Julia Child's Life as a Spy:

With Julie & Julia getting everyone fired up about Julia Child the great chef, it's all too easy to forget that she was also an operative for the US Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the CIA).  Zola and Chef Bryan Moscatello pay tribute to that history with a cocktail reception and cooking demonstration at the new Zola Wine & Kitchen.

Thursday, August 20th
6 PM

Zola Wine & Kitchen
505 9th Street, NW
Washington, DC

Spy stories from Mary Ann Jung of History Alive!  Coq au Vin cooked by Bryan Moscatello.  And more bad Julia Child impressions than you can shake a stick at (we're guessing on that last one).  This should be a fun way to celebrate a less well-known aspect of Julia Child's impressive biography.

$55 per person includes two glasses of wine, the demonstration and tastes of some of Julia's "favorite dishes."  Seating is limited and reservations are required, so call SPY Guest Services at (202) 654-0964 between 9 and 5 to reserve your space today.


If you would like your events posted here, please email [email protected] with the event info.

DC Beer Week: The Summer of Booze Continues.

DC Beer Week 2009 So do you know why Congress gets a recess in the Summer? Well, clearly, because they WANT one; though it can't get it's act together on things like, I dunno, health care, congress has never had a problem reaching consensus on issues that effect it's members' own well-being. But indeed, back in the day, it was hotter than a June bride in a feather bed in this town, without the respite of blessed climate control -- one can't blame them for getting the hell out of Dodge. So now, while the House and Senate carry on the fine traditions of their predecessors, the rest of us without the excuse of "public service" are left here to ponder our own ass sweat. Yay Democracy!

But of course, we find a way to carry on in the worst of circumstances. The kids, they have their pools and their Slip n' Slides and their X-Boxes, so they'll be fine. As for us adults? Well, in the fine tradition of making questionable decisions with the faintest of pretenses, we drink! Well, damn, it's hot out there, and hydrating with water is no fun; now give me back my Foam-Dome!

A couple weeks ago, you may remember my post about Rickey Month, a celebration of DC's Summer drinkin' heritage. Hot on its heals, DC's beer community has announced DC Beer Week 2009 for August 16th - 21st.

Having realized that the craftbrew sensation had finally hit the DC area, last year several area restaurants and bars held special events in celebration of American Craft Beer Week in mid-May. Apparently this sparked a certain amount of interest, as a good number of the folks involved banded together to found DC Beer Week 2009, an independently organized celebration of beer and culture. Twelve breweries and more than two dozen beer bars will be participating in a series of events emphasizing the diversity, potential, and fun of beer.

Festivities kick off with a day-long concert at the Rock and Roll Hotel in the Atlas District, a hotbed of local beer activity. Come by between 2 and 8 to catch some hot local acts, representing the wide range of local styles, from Folk to Metal to Funk. Various craft beers will be available for purchase throughout the afternoon; show up early, and for $20 (first come, first serve) get a VIP ticket that gets you 10 samples of rare, limited edition craft beers.

The group's website is a little light on info at the moment, but the group's Facebook page has a full event list. For those of you don't dig the social networking, I have taken the liberty of transcribing the schedule below:

Sunday, August 16th

DC Beer Week “Unity Jam” at the Rock & Roll Hotel
Rock & Roll Hotel
1353 H St NE
2 pm - 8 pm

The first annual DC Beer Week will kick-off in style celebrating two life’s greatest pleasures- music and beer! This indoor day-long event will emphasize the diversity of the DC music scene with bands displaying musical flavors such as Reggae, Dub, Funk, Folk, Rock, Blues, and Metal.
The confirmed line-up will be:
The Blackjacks
Laura Tsagaris Band
The Jeff Wells Band
There will also be a limited amount of fist come/ first serve “VIP” beer tasting tickets available for $20. Tasting tickets will consist of 10 -4 oz. pours of hard-to-find Craft Beers.

Unity Jam After Party at the Pug
The Pug
1234 H St NE
8:30 pm

The Pug has gained a reputation as a place “where the locals go”. Always playing great tunes on their sound system, free cheese puffs, fooseball, and an extensive selection of craft beers in cans- The Pug is sure to be a good time. Proprietor Tony T. and crew open their arms to the good beer-drinking loyalists of Washington, DC. 
Monday, August 17

Allagash Beer Dinner with Rob Tod at Granville Moore’s
Granville Moore’s
1238 H St NE
7 pm

Come meet-and-greet with Rob Tod, President and Brewmaster of Allagash Brewing Co. at Granville Moore’s. A so-called “Gastropub with a Belgian Fetish” Granville’s Chef Teddy Folkman will be preparing 5 courses paired with 6 great beers from Allagash Brewing Co.

"Sausage, Cheese, and Beerliciousness” at the Big Hunt
The Big Hunt
1345 Connecticut Ave NW
Dupont Circle
7 pm

Come experience regional breweries paired with their regional cheeses and sausages. Big Hunt Beer Director Dave Coleman will be offering great beers on-tap from such world class breweries as Allagash, Bells, Brooklyn, Dogfish Head, Troegs, and Victory. Brewery representatives will be on-hand to discuss the beers and share great stories of the Craft Brewing movement.

Dogfish Head Happy Hour at Brasserie Beck
Brasserie Beck
1101 K St NW
5-7 pm

Come to one of DC finest restaurants to sample a selection of great beers from Delaware’s world-renowned Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Dogfish Head brand rep Devin Arloski will be on hand with glassware and other goodies. 
Chimay Vintage Beer and Cheese Tasting at Birreria Paradiso
Pizzeria Paradiso
3282 M St NW
5 pm

Long recognized as one of the world’s greatest brewers, Chimay Trappist Ales are full of complex flavors. Come out to historic Georgetown and try the rare Chimay Triple draught and vintage Chimay Grande Reserve paired with the rich Chimay cheese. There will also be an extremely rare surprise treat from our friends at Chimay.

Tuesday, August 18

Rogue Oregon Oyster and Ale Festival at the Reef
The Reef
2446 18th St NW
Adams Morgan
5 pm-10 pm

Come chill and relax at the Reef and experience a taste of Oregon. Fresh, Yequina Bay Oysters from Newport, OR will be flown-in for this special event. The Reef’s Chef Connor will be preparing other delicious dishes paired with the complex, tasty beers from Newport’s Rogue Ales.

Brooklyn Brewery Beer and Cheese Tasting with Cowgirl Creamery at Café Saint-Ex
Café  Saint-Ex
1847 14th St NW
U St Corridor
7 pm

Come join in on the fun and experience the ultimate pairing to great cheese- craft beer. The folks from NY’s Brooklyn Brewery will be teaming up with one of city’s finest fromaggiers- Cowgirl Creamery to present a vast array of flavorful beers and individualistic cheeses.

Abita Beer Crawfish Boil at the Argonaut
The Argonaut
1433 H St NE
6 pm

Come experience a true Southern tradition- a crawfish boil. Abita Brewing Co. is the south’s most established craft brewery and a drink synonymous with the city of New Orleans. Chef Matthew Anderson of the Argonaut is known for his coastal cuisine and will be unleashing this customary communal dining experience for lucky attendees.

Wednesday, August 19

“Hitting for the Cycle” at Restaurant Marvin
Restaurant Marvin
2007 14th St NW
U St Corridor
6 pm

Join the folks at Restaurant Marvin as Beer Director Chris Surrusco will assemble an opportunity to “Hit for the Cycle” of Belgian and Belgian-Style beers. Taste “Single”, “Double”, “Triple” and “Quadrupel” beers paired with delicious cuisine from Marvin’s Chef James Claudio. Attendees will have an opportunity to win two tickets to the Friday, Aug 21 Nationals vs. Brewer game.

"Belgian Beer Invades the Capitol”
Capitol Lounge
231 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Capitol Hill
5 pm

Mr. Belgium comes to Washington and he brought with him some potent, complex beers from the Mecca of brewing culture- Belgium. Come and join in on the action at one of Capitol Hill’s legendary taverns.

Coney Island Freak Show at Palace Of Wonders
Palace of Wonders
1210 H St NE
8 pm

There’s always a freak show going on at the Palace of Wonders. Join founders Jeremy and Matt from Shmaltz Brewing Co. as they present there delicious beers- Coney Island Lagers and Hebrew Ales. Rumored is a surprise performance by an authentic Coney Island Freak Show legend.
“Meet the Brewer” Happy Hour at District Chophouse

District Chophouse
509 7th St NW
3-7 pm

The best way to appreciate something is to see how it’s made, come out to the District Chophouse and meet one of DC’s best brewers- Barrett Lauer. Brewery tours will be conducted and to celebrate DC Beer Week all of the Chophouse’s brews will be half-price from 3-7 pm.

Thursday, August 20

DC Beer Week “BATZ” After-Party at Club Asylum

Club Asylum Downstairs Lounge
2471 18th St NW
Adams Morgan
9:30 pm

Come join brewers, beer lovers, and some of DC liveliest nightlife at the legendary Rock & Roll lounge- Club Asylum.

Troegs Pint Night at the Red & the Black
The Red & The Black
1212 H St NE
7 pm

Come join Pete from Troegs Brewing Co of Harrisburg, PA and taste their award-winning beers. Authentic Troegs pint glasses will be given away throughout the duration of the evening.

Friday, August 21

Washington Nationals “DC Beer Week Brewers Game”
Nationals Park
1500 South Capitol St SE
7:05 pm

Come kick-off the end of DC Beer week with America’s National pastime- Baseball. DC Beer Week attendees will receive discounted tickets in selected areas of the ballpark. Suitably the Washington Nationals will be taking on the Milwaukee Brewers..
Mezzanine seats for only $23 (regularly $30) and LF/RF Reserved for only $16 (regularly $24). 
Call Mike Benko at 202-640-7648 and mention “Beer Week” to purchase your discounted Nationals tickets!