Friday, January 25, 2013

Tatiana Day

In honor of St. Tatiana, not to mention partner Tatiana Brunetti, Mari Vanna is giving a free flute of champagne and a Birdsmilk dessert (pictured above) to anyone named Tatiana. Who is St. Tatiana? According to Wikipedia:
She was the daughter of a Roman civil servant who was secretly Christian, and raised his daughter in the faith, and she became a deaconess in the church. This was dangerous, and one day the jurist Ulpian captured Tatiana and attempted to force her to make a sacrifice to Apollo. She prayed, and miraculously, an earthquake destroyed the Apollo statue and part of the temple.
Tatiana was then blinded, and beaten for two days, before being brought to a circus and thrown into the pit with a hungry lion. But the lion did not touch her and lay at her feet. This resulted in a death sentence being pronounced, and after being tortured, Tatiana was beheaded with a sword on January 25, around AD 225 or 230.
So if you're a Tatiana, head to Mari Vanna to celebrate your namesake's beheading. It'll be fun!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rotisserie Chicken and Leek Soup

I don't think I've ever made chicken soup before, but to be fair, I really don't make soup very often. After making this recipe, I'll have to make it more often -- this was great! It starts off with a chicken. The recipe calls for a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, but Ruhlman recommends just roasting a chicken yourself. I had plenty of spare time, so that's just what I did. My trussing skills leave something to be desired, but I stuffed the cavity with a lemon, sliced in half, some thyme, and a shallot, so it wasn't particularly important. Roasting a chicken is actually really, really easy; after stuffing the cavity, I doused it in salt and tossed it in the oven for an hour.

The leeks were simple to prepare, though a pain to clean. Once the chicken was done, the green part of the leek went in the soup pot with the carcass, a carrot, a parsnip, some tomato paste, garlic, and bay leaves. That simmered for an hour, and in a cast iron pot, I softened the white part of the leeks in some butter. Once the leeks softened, I strained in the stock and added the meat. After simmering for a couple minutes to warm the chicken, it was ready. And boy was it! Just the right amount of saltiness, layers upon layers of flavor, and a silky butteriness to the liquid, I can't wait to have it for lunch again tomorrow.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sage Garlic Brined Pork Chops

Photo by Julia Frost, on flickr.
 The first recipe I prepared from the Ruhlman cookbook was the Sage Garlic Brined Pork Chops. I've been brining pork for a while now, so the method isn't exactly new to me, but Ruhlman adds a lot more to the brine than I ever have. Ten (10!) cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of sage, lemon, shallot, etc. He also has you boil everything together briefly, which I suspect is important to releasing all the flavors, especially the lemon. Everything in a bag, and then we just had to wait seven hours.

Once the pork chop was done brining, we coated it in flour, breaded it, and pan-fried it, also according to instructions from Ruhlman's book. While frying it, I made a lemon-caper sauce and my wife prepared brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes. While the pork chops were thinner than Ruhlman suggested, they cooked perfectly -- if anything, they were slightly underdone. I've always been impressed by how much brining makes pork much more tender and juicy, and this brine added some really good flavor. It's a really heavy dish, though. The lemon-caper sauce was necessary to cut the heaviness with the acidity of the lemons and the saltiness of the capers. The brussels sprouts were a good side, and complemented the pork chops nicely; I'm glad we didn't roast them, as that may have been too much. Similarly, the potatoes were good, but they may have been a carb too far. I really enjoyed this meal, and look forward to trying it again!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Growlers are back!

Photo by Erwyn van der Meer, on flickr.
 According to Young & Hungry, Mayor Gray signed the omnibus alcohol bill yesterday. The process for Sunday sales might take a few weeks, but hopefully growler sales will start earlier. I'll let you know if I hear anything more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I had forgotten, sadly, Japanese restaurant Kushi's plans to start a food truck, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw them pop-up at Farragut Square on Washingtonian's food truck tracker. On such a dreary, nasty day, some miso soup sounded really good. I walked over to the square when lunch time came around, and I think I made the right choice. Every bit of the meal was very good.

I ordered the pork belly rice bowl and the miso soup. I know Kushi's sushi is very good, but I wanted to try something new. They do have several different varieties of sushi, including a California roll with real crab. I might try the spicy tuna next time. The rice bowl was great, with really sticky rice and tender pork belly. The ginger gave it a nice kick. The miso soup was excellent, with a good amount of miso in it and high quality kelp. Definitely worth checking out the next time it's in your neighborhood.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ruhlman's Twenty

One of my favorite gifts from over the holidays was actually a massive cookbook, Ruhlman's Twenty. As the author puts it:
I continue to pare down and isolate the fundamentals so that we can be more free and efficient in the kitchen (important given the fact that cooking food is fundamental to our humanity). All you really need to know to cook basically everything is twenty fundamentals. This is a book for people who want to understand how cooking works, inside the hood as it were (recipes are the body and trim, techniques are the engine). It’s also a book for those who like or need to cook and want to cook better.
 And that's a very good description. I've made several of the recipes in the book already, ranging from macaroni and cheese to french onion soup and pan-fried pork chops, and they've all been very good. But what they haven't been is for beginners. This book will certainly refine your cooking skills, if you already have some idea what you're doing in the kitchen. And you don't have to be very good -- I'm under no illusions regarding my own skill! But if you're really just learning to cook, there are other cookbooks that are better for you. in any case, I hope you'll enjoy our trip through this book.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Daiquiri Experimentation

The bartender at Proof is apparently getting bored: for the next two weeks, he's offering four variations on the Daiquiri. After that, it's the Whiskey Sour for those of you who aren't rum people.

h/t: Urban Daddy

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Hawk's Lunch

While I was looking for lunch at Farragut Square, I saw two birds on the lawn. At first, it looked like the large brown one was humping the smaller one, but when I got a better angle, it was clear the hawk was eating the pigeon! Not something you see everyday, especially in the middle of Farragut Square.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

20 Things You Should Believe If You Want to Feel Morally Superior to "Foodies"

First we feast has a slideshow listing "20 Things Everyone Thinks About the Food World (But Nobody Will Say)." Nevermind that first on our list of internet tropes to avoid is the slideshow, it's a pretty though provoking list. Some of it, like 'most people just want wine that tastes like wine' is pretty banal. Others like "The sustainable food movement is only relevant to rich white people" are likely false. But it's an amusing read. My favorite? Tex-mex food is better than authentic Mexican:
Why do we, in food media, discount so heartily Americanized ethnic foods? Many bastard cuisines, from red-sauce Italian to Americanized Chinese food, deserve more praise for the distinct styles of cooking they've become. Tex Mex is so often looked down upon by the fooderati for its reliance on cheese, sauce, and beans. SO FUCKING WHAT? Go ahead and look down on a combo meal for being heavy, then go stuff your face with Frédéric Morin's version of the double down at Joe Beef. That's right—you are a hypocritical glutton! Sorry, we've become violent… The point here is not to fight fire with fire, but rather to suggest that Tex Mex is worth vaulting into the pantheon of real American food. Ever had a fajita in San Antonio? That shit is transcendental. And no amount of Rick Bayless can stop it.
 Which of course harkens back to this post of mine: "Authenticity in Food".

h/t: The Gray Report.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Union Market

Photo by sirmichael, on flickr
Union Market opened last year in the NE to great fanfare. It's a large hall filled with artisanal merchants and food vendors. I've been there a couple of times, but this was the first time I've been since it was kicking on all cylinders. It's a bit hard to get to if you don't drive; a couple buses pass nearby, and it's walking distance from the New York Avenue metro, but it's not actually close to the metro, and taking the bus home gets a bit complicated for us. But the shops there are all lovely.

Our first stop was Buffalo & Bergen, Gina Chersevani's new spot. It's a reasonable facsimile of a New York deli, with bagels (made with real New York water!), knishes, and sodas. Since it has two of the district's best bartenders, Gina and Rachel Sergi, it also has a number of very excellent cocktails. I haven't tried the bagels, but the knishes are very good. The Reuben knish I had could have been a bit tangier, but the short rib knish my wife had was right on.
Since I'm a bit of a cheese fiend, we had to stop by Righteous Cheese for a cheese plate. The plates are a bit expensive here, and I'm not sure what we got was quite a $24 plate. Not to mention that their insistence we both get something, and not just split a cheese plate, left a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth. That being said, though, the cheese plate was very good, and the beer pairings tasty and inventive.
Our third stop was Rappahannock Oyster Co. We went a little overboard here, but in our defense, mmm seafood. We got a dozen oyster, a crab cake, and a bit of salmon roe, and every bit of it was delicious. The crab cake was the best I've ever had, the salmon roe was like Gushers for adults, and impossible to do wrong. The oysters were great. They gave us three varieties, the middle of the road Rappahannocks, the briny Olde Salts, and the sweeter Stingrays. My wife had a glass of manzanilla sherry, and I had the Flying Dog Oyster Stout, both of which went great with the food.

Union Market was great fun to visit, even if logistics mean we're not going to be down here every week. If you've been to the butcher, let me know what you thought; I didn't get a chance to try any of their products.

A Sharper Image

Photo by Dan Sorensen, on flickr.
I'm reminded by a post from Rowley's Whiskey Forge of the annual sharpening of the knives. What I didn't know until a couple years ago was that knives should be sharpened annually. While using a steel each time the knives come out helps keep them aligned, it doesn't actually sharpen it. While most hardware stores will do it for you, it's easy enough to buy a sharpener and do it at home. I use this one. It's also important to actually remember to do it! Rowley apparently does his knives every holiday season; I do mine around Thanksgiving. So if you haven't done it yet, go sharpen your knives! It's not to late to use Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday as your mnemonic device, just try not to think about any potential symbolism.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Himalayan Heritage

 We're often torn about what to do for food after a workout. It's usually late, and we're usually tired, so we don't usually want to cook. But eating out two or three times a week would be a bit of a strain on our pocketbook. So, we're always looking for deals in Adams Morgan, especially for places that seem like they're not going to mind too much if we're a bit grubby. Himalayan Heritage fit this bill, so I got the deal, and we headed over.

 I wanted to try and order something that was more on the Nepali end of the spectrum, less on the Indian end, so I got the "Himalayan Karahi," a "Mixture of Barbeque chicken, and lamb cooked with tomatoes, capsicum and coriander leaves in medium spices with red wine tossed in an iron souk." My wife got the Muglin Thali, a combination of several different dishes featuring prominently a goat curry. The dominant theme of the meal was tough. My chicken was tough. Her goat was tough. It was tough to get service. We weren't very happy with the meal, but I was going to chalk part of it up to being crabby until I realized we were there for two hours. That's much too slow for service. Perhaps we caught them on a bad night, but I don't think we're going back.


Lauren DeSantis reminds us that Cochon 555 is only three months away:
Guests will be treated to an epic pork feast of seven whole heritage pigs from amazing chefs, wines from five different small wineries plus special tastings from celebrated food and beverage producers. New additions in 2013 include the streaming live cocktail competition called "Punch Kings" featuring local mixologists, our unique take on "Guy on His Buffalo" Cocktail Series, a special Mezcal tasting and the launch of the TarTar Bar. Everyone enjoys butcher demonstrations, interactive tasting contests, ice-cold brews, artisan cheeses, Rappahannock River Oysters, the infamous Manhattan Bar, a pork-spiked dessert, cold brewed coffee and to close the evening, attendees and local judges will help us announce the 2012 NYC Princess of Porc.
 A lot of these sorts of events are pretty gimmicky and not really worth the cost of admission, but I've only heard good things about this pork-centric event. Tickets start at $125.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Places to go next week

Urban Daddy reminds us that Graffiato is starting their late night pop-up series next week Monday. On the first Monday of every month, Isabella is handing the kitchen over to another area chef. Kicking it off is Bryan Voltaggio and Owen Thompson, so it should be awesome. I'm not sure I can stay up that late anymore, but someone should definitely let me know how it is. The full schedule is here.

State of the Blog: 2013

I've had this blog for about a year now. I always told myself I'd do a year, and then see how I felt about it. The good news for both of my fans is that I'm going to continue the blog, but I need to make it more fun for me. Originally, I wanted to make sure I had at least one post a day. In order to make that happen, I created the Small Plates posts -- they were something easy I could do, even when my work schedule ramped up. The problem is twofold. First, I just don't enjoy writing them, or any of the administrative work behind them. Second, when I'm not posting much other than them, it makes the blog look like just a rehash of other people's posts. So those posts are out. I still plan on covering any news that looks particularly exciting, but that will be in an individual post.

Other than that, you can expect more of the same commentary on my cooking and drinking, and I'm hoping to do a better job of posting reviews. As far as new content goes, I'll have a post up later today or tomorrow talking about a new series I'm hoping to start soon. Happy new year to both of you, and if either of you has a suggestion for what you'd like to see, please feel free to make a comment.