Just Because

Free Food!

For those of you that missed me on the NBC4 news today, here are the places that I mentioned where you can get free food.

The first things that come to mind when I think of free food deals are "Kids Eat Free" deals. The Argonaut Tavern in the H Street Corridor lets kids under 12 eat for free on Wednesday nights. That's better than your average kids eat free deal (where the age limit is usually 6) as an 11 year old has a much bigger appetite than a 5 year old. Also, the Chinatown location of La Tasca and Madam Tousauds Wax Museum are offering a special right now. If you pay for a child admission to the Museum, you get a free kids meal at La Tasca or visa versa.

Many restaurants offer free appetizers and  hors d'oeuvres at their bars to lure people in during happy hour. Two places give away a nice food offering during happy hour. Every weekday Vidalia in downtown DC has a free wine tasting and complementary hors d'oeuvres from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM. Dino in Cleveland Park also does this from 5:30 to 7, minus the wine tasting.

Of course, we all know that local grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes give away free samples of food, however, people forget that your local farmers market is a much better place to get free samples. Nearly every booth has free samples. I make no promises as to whether or not you'll end up spending some money after you try the samples though.

Finally, check your local market or Williams Sonoma for free cooking demonstrations. Williams and Sonoma has frequent cooking demonstrations every month and your local DC, MD, or VA Whole Foods will have an occasional cooking demonstration as well.

Happy Holidays

We at DC Foodies wish you all Happy Holidays! We hope you all were able to take today off, and if not, we hope you at least get to eat well at some point in the day and spend some time with family and friends.

We'll be back on our regular posting schedule starting next Monday, but in the mean time, we leave you with something that has absolutely nothing to do with food...

"Well, you know what they say about it..."

Hfcs1 As (I hope) some of you have noticed, I have been away for awhile. Thanks to some fortuitous circumstances and undeserved kindness (thank you SO much, Chuck and Suzanne), I have spent much of the past three weeks in Portugal. Most of the time we were in the middle of nowhere, so internet access was a limited commodity, and American television was right out. So imagine my surprise when, having just connected cable at my new apartment, I turned on the Food Network to find this ad from the Corn Refiners of America.

Yeah, Mr. Smarty McHealthypants! There is nothing wrong with high fructose corn syrup; its made from F@$#ing CORN for Christ's sake! All natural and all American! What you got to say to that? Yeah, that's what I thought... Eat your popsicle, commie.

Hfcs9But seriously, what the hell? I see from Youtube that this spot has been out for almost two months — how'd I miss this? This one, and the second one I found on Youtube, got me pretty riled up. I mean... of course high fructose corn syrup is bad, right? It is the central raw material in our manufactured food culture, where real food is less common than the Frankenfoods that HFCS has made possible. It is also both a product of and a reason for our ridiculous domestic farming system, where farmers are rewarded for growing high-yield corn varieties over real, useful grains like wheat and barley. And the group's claim that HFCS is a "natural product" is laughable, as it is more heavily processed than any other nutritive sweetener out there, and requires the use of a genetically modified enzyme for its very production!

Though, to be fair, it is true that the most common form of HFCS has the same amount of calories as an equal portion of table sugar or honey, and it is pretty close in chemical structure to sucrose, minus a bond or two. Considering this, is it right to condemn HFCS as the source of our nation's health woes? If sugar were the cheaper alternative, would we not abuse that similarly? Is the popsicle zombie in the ad correct when she says that HFCS is fine in moderation? Is high fructose corn syrup just the whipping boy of an America that isn't willing to take responsibility for its own lack of willpower? Is anyone else overcome with an intense desire to run out and buy a jug of delicious Red Drink? I'm curious as to what you guys think. Please chime in and let me know if I'm drinking the wrong sort of Kool-Aid.

Come on down to Dr. Granville Moore's Tonight

Or at least watch your favorite food blogger on the Food Network. If you haven't heard by now, we'll be on 'Throwdown with Bobby Flay' tonight at 9 PM. A bunch of the DCFoodies.com writers will be at Granville Moore's tonight watching the show so stop in and say 'Hi'!

(sorry for the blurry pic, my camera phone doesn't work that well)

New Writers

I guess it's about time I introduced our new writers to everyone, but first, a little background.

Every year, after the Summer Restaurant Week, I take some time off from writing for D.C. Foodies and I think about where I want to go with this site. This year I started donating all of the ad proceeds from this web site to charity, and so far this year we've been able to generate over $2000 for local charities. The thing is, I think this site can do much better, but I only have so much time, especially recently, to dedicate to it on my own.

Given the amount of time that I have to dedicate to this site, I think the only way to grow D.C. Foodies is to have more writers, and I've extended an invitation to some regular commenters and people that I know to help out.

You've probably read Mike Bober's weekly Friday cheese posts by now and I hope you've enjoyed them as much as I have. Mike is originally from New Jersey and has lived in Washington, DC for a little more than a decade.  A graduate of Georgetown, Mike is a certified barbecue judge on the Kansas City Barbecue Society circuit and has hosted an event on Capitol Hill bringing together smoked pork and brisket from nine of the best barbecue restaurants across the country.  He's also a former demo chef at Trader Joe's, creating a series of "Mike's Minute Meals" recipes that proved quite popular with customers.  Mike is an avid reader of foodie books, loves red wines (especially old vine Zinfandels) and sharp cheese, and is always eager to try a new restaurant.

I hope you've also enjoyed Ramona's recipes using fresh local produce. Ramona has her own blog called The Houndstooth Gourmet, and has generously offered to write here at DCFoodies.com once a week on Tuesday. She lives in VA with her husband, Frank and their three dogs and has always been passionate about food and cooking, beginning when her mother taught her how to make classic Polish dishes during her childhood in Philadelphia. While she still does cook Polish dishes, she finds herself frequenting many of the area farmers markets and delving into cooking food from different countries and cultures. Constantly searching for the best of seasonal and perennial produce, she enjoys building relationships with the market vendors.  She and her husband also enjoy the vibrant ethnic food scene here in DC and Northern Virginia. She hopes to inspire with recipes, stories, and reviews here at D.C. Foodies .

Coming soon, expect to see other writers coming on board to cover other topics like restaurant news, wine, restaurant reviews, book reviews, and even more cooking writers. I'll continue to write for this site, just like I always have, so in a sense, nothing has changed, but you'll just have more to read.

I'll extend an open invitation to anyone reading this. If you have a passion for fine food, dining, wine, or cooking, and you live in D.C., Maryland, Northern Virginia, Baltimore and Annapolis, I want you to write for D.C Foodies. Send me a writing sample. Write a review of your favorite restaurant...or least favorite restaurant. Make an instructional video of how to make your favorite recipe. If you're a member of DonRockwell.com, eGullet, Chowhound, or maybe you have your own blog, it's fine to just send a an example of something you've already written there.

Mandolines: A How NOT to Guide

I recently had a little episode involving a mandoline. Given that experience, I thought I would give everyone some assvice on how NOT to use a mandoline, since I obviously, don't know how to use one.

And yes, I'm talking about one of these:
and not one of these:
When using a mandoline:
1) Do not act like a know-it-all when your wife cuts her finger trying to remove a piece of leftover vegetable that got wedged in the blade.
2) Do not take over and insist on slicing fast...very fast.
3) When the vegetable is too big for the guide, do not use the mandoline without the guide.
4) When using the mandoline without the guide, do not slice just as fast as when you were using the mandoline with the guide.
5) When you cut off the tip of your finger, do not stand there like an idiot looking at it as blood runs down your arm.
6) Do not try to stop the bleeding with a bunch of wet paper towels.
7) 30 minutes later when your finger is still bleeding and you go to the emergency room, do not try to hide the fact that you did this to yourself with a mandoline from the hospital staff. They can tell, trust me. In fact, I think they have bets on how many people will actually come in on any given day with an injury like this. I hear there's an over-under pool that's run by the emergency room janitor.

(Disclaimer: this information is for entertainment purposes only. I take no responsibility for how you decide to use a mandoline.)

New York Pizza Tour Recap

It just came to me that I never told you all about my pizza tour in New York City...What was I thinking?!!

As you might remember, I went to New York City to celebrate my birthday and tour of all the famous (and not so famous) pizza joints. The whole experience was very eye opening and fun for me and Amy. So here's how it all went down...

Amy went took the train to NY early to visit with her sister and niece and go to her niece's graduation where she met Aida Turturro and nearly shit herself. On my way up on Thursday, I researched all of the great pizza places in New York and I had an entire game plan by the time the 2 hour train ride was done. One bad thing though, I found out from SliceNy.com that Di Fara's, the primary pizza place I wanted to visit, was closed due to a health code violation. Mother F-er!

Ok...minor setback, but there are plenty of awesome places left to visit. I got off the train and took a cab to the Lower East Side hotel to meet Amy and a friend of hers at a little wine bar at the corner of Ludlow and Rivington with really overpriced wine by the glass (they also didn't know how to keep their red wines at the right temperature). We chatted for a while, but the entire time I was thinking about pizza, Googling on my phone to see where the closest pizza joint was. Gah! Me. Freak.

My_first_slicesWe went back to the hotel and Amy passed out on the bed. I sat there a while watching TV, but at 1 AM, I was still thinking about where the closest pizza place was. With Amy asleep, I headed out. I just started walking around, with no idea where I was going and about a block or two away, I came across a place called Rocket Joe's. It was open, I was hungry, and the pizza looked pretty decent. Good enough. I ordered a plain and a pepperoni slice, the pepperoni slice rocked my world. Ok, so looking back, it wasn't nearly the best slice of pizza I had the whole weekend, but at the time, dear God, it was just what I needed! Greasy, drippy (especially the pepperoni slice), and...a sesame seed coated crust??! Ok, so it made up for the lack of flavor in the crust, but seriously, this totally hit the spot.

Like Amy, I pass out after devouring the 2 slices of pizza. I should've ordered 4.

Lombardis Morning comes way too soon. We skip the continental breakfast at the hotel and head for Lombardi's in Little Italy (all three square blocks of what's left of it) at about 10:30 AM where we order a whole margherita, but only finish a couple slices of it to save room for later. Looking back, Lombardi's pizza wasn't the most memorable. While it it was better than what I'd eaten the night before, with nice salty sauce, fresh mozzarella, the crust was fairly dense. But, there were better things to come...

Our next stop, was a little place called Una Pizza Napoletana, except, shit, they're only open for dinner. Dammit! Ok, so much for my beautifully laid out plan...I just walked fourteen blocks for nothing. Luckily, a little place called Vinny Vincenz was right around the corner, but overall, fairly disappointing. The crust was just bland and way too thin and weak. Moving on.

Pizza_makers_grimaldis We walked off out two lunches with a little shopping (bleh). I wanted more pizza so we made out way out to Brooklyn, taking the F train to the first stop on the other side of the river, and made our way to the infamous Grimaldi's. Ahhhh YES!! This was what I was waiting for -- a perfect crust of crunchy, chewy goodness and fresh rich sauce. They didn't overdo it with heaping layers of toppings either. We ate the whole pie. On future trips, we'll definitely be going to Grimaldi's!

Tired from the endless walking, we stopped and had a drink at a local wine bar around the corner from Grimaldi's and after a couple smooth glasses of red and some stinky cheese, we decided to head back over the Brooklyn bridge to the Lower East Side to grab something light to eat. We ate dinner that night at a little Italian wine bar close to the hotel called Aroma Kitchen and Wine Bar. I'd definitely recommend it if you're in that area.

Sore from all the walking, I could've stayed in bed all day. We spent most of that day in Greenwich Village where our first stop was Otto's to meet Amy's family for some of Mario Batali's flat iron grilled pizza. The toppings were all great, but I wasn't crazy about the rest of the pizza. On top of that, each topping on the pizza was kept separate from each other, which traditional or not, is really kind of stupid. I mean isn't the point of having multiple toppings to be able to taste them together?

Peppereponi_slice_at_johns From Otto's we walked over to John's of Bleeker Street. And this is when everything started getting really good, at least for me. It was an off time, probably the middle of the afternoon, so maybe my experience was a little different than most (I've read about crazy crowds at this place, but we just walked right in and sat down), but the pizza at John's was my favorite of the entire trip. It's made in a coal oven, that dates back to the 1920s. The crust was f-ing amazing! I tasted the yeast, salt, smoky char, and perfect thickness. Wow! We ordered a pepperoni and all the little slices of pepperoni had these charred edges that made them crispy and chewy at the same time. This pizza we finished.

After John's, it started to pour. The rain came down like a blanket, but we didn't let that stop up. We ran around the corner to Bleeker Street Pizza, a little dive that has maybe five or six tables, and ordered a couple slices. The sauce was the best thing about this pizza, in particular, the Nonna Maria slice which uses a chunky fresh tomato sauce that is full of garlic.

The rain stopped, and just in time for us to walk for a while and work off all those slices of pizza. Back to the hotel we went, to relax until our dinner at WD-50.  (And while you might be hoping that I'll write about my experience there, I'm sorry, but this was one of those occasions where I refused to take mental note of every bite I took, because I just wanted to enjoy the meal.)

Slice_of_pepperoni_patsys Sunday was our last day in the city, but we had one last pizza place to try, Patsy's in East Harlem. Acclaimed by many to be the best pizza in New York City, I wasn't going to miss it for the world, no matter how far out of the way it was for us. We took the 6 train to the Upper East Side to 116th St and walked a few blocks over to 118th and 1st where the Original Patsy's was (notice I said Original, because I've been to the other Patsy's across the city, and they're no where close to the same). It took us about 40 minutes in all to get there, and we arrived just after they opened for lunch at 12, but it was well worth the trip. This is NY style pizza people. While it wasn't my favorite, it was definitely Amy's. For me, I thought the crust was a little thin and floppy, but other than that, it had a perfect combination of sauce and cheese.

And with that, the tour was over. We stopped back at the hotel to pick up our bags and headed to the train station to come home. What an amazing trip it was -- I can't wait to go back for more!

Before I finish, I'll say this. None of the places we ate at had the perfect pizza, at least according to my taste. While one had an amazing crust, the cheese might have been a little less fresh, or the sauce a little bland.  But taste is a sense that everyone's brain interprets differently. What I define as a perfect pizza, someone else might think is sloppy mess. So while I may have dismissed a place in my writing here, I encourage you all to try all the places I've talked about here, because in all honestly, they were all very good.

John's Pizzeria (Bleeker Street)

278 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014

Get Directions
(212) 243-1680

19 Old Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Get Directions
(718) 858-4300

Patsy's Pizzeria (East Harlem)
2287 1st Ave
New York, NY 10035

Get Directions
(212) 534-9783
Bleeker Street Pizza
69 7th Ave S
New York, NY 10014

Get Directions
(212) 924-4466
* approximate times