Archive for the ‘culinary events’ Category
April 8th, 2013 • No Comments
I Got My Piggy On..
Cochon 555 in DC..This event is not just about the Pig..it’s also about the drink, the chef, and the Foodie..maybe even the Foodie Groupie (did I make that up??)..
Mike Isabella, Graffiato/Bandolero
I attended my first Cochon 555 on Sunday, April 7th, 2013 and it was all that I expected and even more..More pig combinations,
Kyle Bailey, Birch & Barley
More food, More drink, More.. well.. let’s just say this is a feast of the senses. In wine, we always say that you use all of your senses except for your sense of hearing – Cochon 555 must be heard as well! This event is the Rock n Roll of Tasting Events – personalities larger than life like Mike Isabella with salamis wrapped around his neck, chefs and students from L’Academie showcasing their passion for food, a butchering of a WHOLE PIG – yep..although, the innards had mostly been already removed, if you had never been to a slaughterhouse, this took you there minus the squeal!
Cochon 555 is a celebration of life – just as everyone must eat, some of us eat to fulfill our passion or maybe it IS our passion. If I was going to explain this event to someone from outer space, I would say that man was once a primitive animal that lived primarily in caves or on the savannah. Over a period of thousands of years, he formed civilization and started culture (she too!)..but the need to satisfy those primitive urges never disappeared – thus Cochon 555!
This Little Piggie..
Heritage Pigs – well, ever since modern industry took over the majority of our food system, food has been “designed” to fit consumer lifestyles – thus was created the modern pig – it gets fat fast, needs little space to roam (or it may need it, but it doesn’t get it!) and it has lean meat..Why lean? We food consumers (actually, I should change that to “industrial pig consumers” – forgive me if you’re Vegan..) read a study in the 70′s that suggested that eating too much fat, especially animal fat, caused heart disease and will shorten your life..it seems to make sense right.. I mean ever since the times of Henry VIII, only the wealthy could afford meat on a regular basis, and all of them were rotund and had gout – so obviously the study is right – I mean, surely if you eat Fat, you get fat, the fat becomes fat around your belly and thighs and of course there’s cholesterol in the fat, and that fills your arteries and you die young.. right??
Pig Heart Tartare
No way – bad study, bad logic, but smart companies taking advantage of the reality of modern life: sell the benefit, not the product..it’s easy to convince people that fat = fat = fat..it’s total nonsense, but hey, who has time to even thing about such stuff??
Conclusion: these Heritage pigs with their thick covering of serious fat are actually healthier for the environment, healthier for the pig, but most of all – THEY WILL MAKE YOU HEALTHY – Eat Them!
Chefs competing for Prince of Pork in Washington, D.C. are Mike Isabella (Graffiato), Haidar Karoum (Proof / Estadio), Kyle Bailey (Birch & Barley), Jeffrey Buben (Vidalia), and Bryan Voltaggio [Volt, Range, Family Meal].
2013 marks a culinary milestone: The fifth anniversary of Cochon 555, a one-of-a-kind traveling culinary competition and tasting event created to promote sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs. Arriving in the nation’s capital on Sunday, April 7 at The Newseum, the pork-centric tour gathers together five chefs, five pigs and five wineries at each event – ultimately touching down in 10 cities across the country and bringing its message of nose-to-tail cooking, breed diversity and family farming to food enthusiasts nationwide.
Each Cochon 555 event challenges five local chefs to prepare a menu created from the entirety of heritage breed pigs for an audience of pork-loving epicureans and celebrated judges. Chefs competing for Prince of Pork in Washington, D.C. are Mike Isabella (Graffiato), Haidar Karoum (Proof / Estadio), Kyle Bailey (Birch & Barley), Jeffrey Buben (Vidalia), and Bryan Voltaggio [Volt, Range, Family Meal].
Guests will be treated to an epic pork feast alongside wines from five small family-owned wineries including Sandhi Wines, Scholium Project, Elk Cove Vineyards, Westport Rivers, and Silver Oak plus special tastings from Rhone Valley Wines, Anchor Brewing, Crispin Ciders, Illegal Mezcal, and Blue Coat Gin. Twenty judges and 400 guests help decide the winning chef, who is crowned the Prince of Pork and will compete against other regional winners at the finale Grand Cochon event at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen on Sunday, June 16.
Also included in the evening is a preview of the new Heritage BBQ event in which John Critchley of Bourbon Steak will roll out family meal – an additional whole hog cooked barbecue-style immediately preceding the awards.
VIP guests receive early access to the event and special offerings including a special tasting with three competing chefs. The VIP hour is filled with experiences that will not be found on the main floor such as access to “Punch Kings” – a new cocktail competition featuring Breckenridge Bourbon and six local bartenders, a VIP-only gift bag, the all-new Tartare Bar, Rappanhannock River Oysters, and reserve wines and spirits. Guests can enter for a chance to win a roundtrip ticket from Southwest Airlines, Official Airline for the “Cochon US Tour”.
In addition, to celebrate five years of Heritage Breeds, Cochon added five bourbons to the lineup! All attendees will get samples of Breckenridge Bourbon, Eagle Rare, Templeton Rye, High West, Buffalo Trace and Four Roses in addition to the Perfect Manhattan Bar showcasing Luxardo and Eagle Rare. New to 2013 is also the Chupito/Mezcal Bar, a tasting experience featuring Mezcales de Leyenda, Pierde Almas and Fidencio. The infamous Craft Cheese Bar sees a facelift featuring a local cheesemonger, Cypress Grove Chevre, Vermont Butter & Cheese, Spring Brook Farm with an exclusive tasting of blues from Rogue Creamery, and favorites from Kerrygold. Everyone can commemorate the experience by visiting the City Eats photo booth and voting for the best bite of the day.
High West Whiskey
The fun continues with a butcher demonstration presented by Zwilling / MIyabi with Chris Fuller from Alleghany Meats and a raffle to benefit the student volunteers, ice-cold brews, Fernet Branca digestifs, Taza Chocolate pork-spiked desserts, Champagne toast, award ceremony, and of course, the after party will immediately follow.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
4 p.m. (VIP); 5 p.m. (general admission)
555 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
Cochon 555 Tickets: $125 (general admission) and $200 (VIP); to purchase tickets, visit www.cochon555.com
So Much Food!
ADDITIONAL EVENT: CHEFS COURSE DINNER
To kick-off the 5th Anniversary Weekend Celebration, Cochon 555 will curate an intimate “Chef’s Course” Guest Chef Dinner on Friday, April 5 at The Source by Wolfgang Puck hosted by Scott Drewno, two-time Cochon winner. The 5-course dinner will feature great chefs, including past participants, friends and judges paired with a winemaker, distiller or brewer. Go behind the scenes with Team Cochon for this amazing dinner and meet the folks driving the flavor train. Tickets to this dinner are $110, all inclusive and reservations can be made by calling the restaurant at (202) 637-6100 and please reference Cochon555.
Guests can enter for a chance to win a roundtrip ticket from Southwest Airlines, Official Airline for the “Cochon US Tour”.
Please invite your facebook friends to this event. Invite over 75 friends, show us screenshot proof, and get a $25 discount code for being a partner to responsible agriculture.
April 7th, 2013 • No Comments
The Craft Brewer’s Conference Beer & Food Experience..
So what happens when a couple thousand or so Brewer’s and their beer-loving cohorts come to DC to partake in a 3 day Conference around Beer? Total Chaos! OK, it wasn’t that crazy (I skipped alot of the Shenanigans..), but it started off for me with a serious beer dinner at Birch & Barley on Monday, March 25th, 2013 – Charlie Bravo Charlie (which stands for Craft Brewer’s Conference..get it??) Rare Beer Dinner: Volume #1
Let’s take you through the menu and beers..
Aperitif: Share the Rainbow a Collaboration by Bluejacket, Allagash and Peekskill Breweries.
Ahi Tartare & Maui Ginger Saison
Dish #1: Ahi Poke Tartare (Soy-Mirin, Tobiko, Wasabi Peas, Wonton, Sesame)
Beer Pairing: Maui Ginger Saison by Maui Brewing Co., Hawaii
Dish #2: Seared Shad Roe (Lemon Puree, Braised Escarole, Sherry-Bacon Sauce, Arugula)
Beer Pairing: Surly Smoke Lager by Surly Brewing Co., Minnesota
Shad Roe w/ Surly Smoke Lager
Dish #3: Handcut Fettucine (Littleneck Clams, Chili Flake, Toasted Garlic, Crispy Pancetta)
Beer Pairing: Black Stallion by Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, Maryland
Dish #4: Roasted Squab (Toasted Farro-Marcona Almond, Fresh Radish, Roasted Sunchokes)
Beer Pairing: Barrel-Aged Ghouls Night Out by DC Brau, Washington, D.C.
Dish #5: Fourme D’Ambert (Cream Sherry-Plumped Dark Raisins, Rosemary, Hazelnut Butter)
Beer paired – Firestone Walker (CA) XV
Dessert: Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (Citrus Segments, Blood Orange Sorbet, Ginger-Cardamom Pound Cake, Basil)
Beer Paired – Hunahpu’s Imperical Stout (FL), Cigar City
Roasted Squab – Yumm!
DC Brau Barrel-Aged Ghouls Night Out
Digestif: Odic Equum (Co) Avery Brewing
Brandon Skall of DC Brau!
Meg Parisi – Head Brewer at Bluejacket Brewery, Washington, D.C.
March 26th, 2013 • No Comments
This one takes the cake..I mean pie!
This was my “judging” (attendees got to judge – so VERY unofficial!) of an entertaining fundraiser for Martha’s Table called “Make Me Wanna Shout Pie Challenge” held on Saturday, March 23rd, 2013.
First a confession – I’m not much of a dessert eater, and I probably eat less than a dozen pieces of pie in the average year. Pies to me are SO filling and full of sugar normally, that they make me feel stuffed. Still, having been a wine judge, a chocolate judge and who knows what else, I felt I could do this..I mean, taste is personal, and I’m in tune with my own palate. I may not be able to detect every nuance in wine or for that matter pies, but I do cook and bake, and I know how ingredients taste when they come together well.
But I also have a slight bias – I prefer foods with a balance of ingredients and decent acidity – if you gave me a chocolate covered piece of chocolate cake smothered in chocolate sauce, that would score VERY LOW to me – and I would call that a “heavy” cake..The same with pie – things that are truly delicious on their own – chocolate sauce, fudge, peanut butter, gooey sauces – can overwhelm my palate when combined. When I was a kid, I LOVED Chocolate Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Cookies, but today I could probably only eat 2 bites – that is simply too heavy for my palate..now if you add a citrus or sour flavored sauce to that, different story!
SPOILER ALERT – Here are the Actual Winners (5 Total)
Pie #6 – Triple-Crust Cast-Iron Skillet Apple Pie This was heavy – heavy/doughy crust, heavy filling and the apples were chewy and didn’t seem acidic enough. This was a “heavy” pie – but of course, made in a Cast-Iron – so you might call this a “country pie”.
Pie # 4 – Old-Fashioned Vinegar Pie My favorite pie or a tie with my other favorite pie which was #3 – Raspberry Rhubarb. I’m not sure if this was the first Vinegar Pie I ever had, but it had a wonderful tartness of cider vinegar against the weight of the eggy filling..ohh, and the crust had tons of butter – Gooood!
Pie #3 – Raspberry Rhubarb – This pie was one of my favorites – both tart and sweet and even rich – according to the pie baker, they use tapioca pudding which acts like a gelatin to give the ingredients some weight..Yummm! Excellent pie crust too, lots o butter..
Pie #2 – Peach Cobbler This was very sweet and on the heavy side..needed some acidity – maybe work on presentation too – but all-in-all very authentic and homey..
Pie #1 – Fruits of the Forest Pie VERY tart, but I tasted it right after a really sweet dessert and it just seemed a bit too tart/acidic..which normally just means add some sugar! Beautiful presentation..
Pie #10 – Chocolate Chess Pie These were mini-pies and I was pretty full at this point. They tasted like pecan pies without the pecans..but I couldn’t detect any chocolate. Not bad, enjoyable, the crust was good too.
Pie #12 – German Chocolate Pie This came in 3rd in my tasting (tie for 1st mentioned above) – it had pecans on top, but was not a pecan pie. I would call this one of the “rich” pies – dessert as a meal in my book – but it had a few real positives which included texture, crunch and a very good crust – this was the only of the “heavy” pies that I gave a top vote..
Pie #9 – P-Chocobana Pie Visually, over the top – and the
The Next Food Network Star?presenter was so Bubbly! It was about 6 inches thick and Rich, rich, RICH! A “heavy” pie with a peanut butter custard filling. Great looking, decent crust, this would go over GREAT for a kids party.
Pie #8 – Dottie Sweet Potato Pie Traditional – this was a very steady original version of this – the maker actually said this was a “slavery recipe” from the 19th century..I would have given this a winning vote, but it is a very simple delicious pie with a very good crust – give it 4th place or 5th place – having said this, there was nothing wrong with this pie – solid!
Pie #7 – Cheryl’s Nice and Naughty Sweet Potato Pie This was good, but very modernized version of Sweet Potato Pie – it was almost a cheesecake with cream cheese added..I liked it, but I wanted whipped cream on top of it – shame on me!
March 10th, 2013 • No Comments
DCBrau Needs More Beer Dinners..
Guest Post by Christina Portz “Just the Bottle” Blog:
Did Somebody Say Beer Dinner?
I have great respect for DC Brau. The founders are hard working and passionate men. I remember after they first opened, I tried to find The Public Ale. It was amazing having that first beer. I had a friend at the time who had just moved to San Fransisco and took photos of DC Brau. He eventually made his way back home and loves DC Brau.
This past Thursday DC Brau held a beer dinner at 1905. The event was featured on TasteDC’s calendar (4-Course DC Brau Beer Dinner )among other great sites. Before the dinner, they held a release happy hour for their Saint Joseph’s Tripel. The beer is named in honor of Joey Belcher. They also donated a portion of the proceeds of the happy hour as well as remembered him fondly during the dinner.
I missed the happy hour as I was catching up with a friend at Vinoteca. It’s another great spot in the area that never gets too packed for weekday happy hour and offers several wines by the glass for $5.
I showed up shortly before the start of dinner. I was greeted by the wonderful staff of 1905 including one of my favorite bartenders, Lyn. She’s a sassy lady with amazing taste in beer and food. I also was lucky enough to meet one of the DC Beers crew, John Fleury.
Let’s get started with this tasty dinner. Nom nom nom.
DC Brau Citizen, Horseradish, Lemon Juice, Pickled Okra
The amuse bouche featured the DC Brau Citizen as an oyster shooter. I am not the biggest fan usually of oysters, but the spice and acid notes were perfect. The DC Brau Citizen had a balancing effect.
House-Smoked Pork Belly
Brined in DC Brau Penn Quarter Porter, Maple Glaze, Bacon Collards, Littlenecks
Paired with Penn Quarter Porter (5.5% ABV)
My preferred beers are stouts or porters. I love the Penn Quarter Porter. The pork belly was succulent. It was so creamy along with the beer it came out very luxurious. The collard greens with bacon added an element of salt.
There were amazing chocolate notes in the porter with some smoke towards the finish.
Lemon-Pepper Creme, Deviled Crawfish, Pickled Fennel
Paired with Saint Joseph’s Tripel (10% ABV)
This was yet another amazing dish. The tripel made delicious sense with the salmon. As Jeff presented the dish, he spoke of having beer compliment or contradict your food. It’s a great aspect of dining with beer.
The salmon was cooked perfectly. It was incredibly moist and sort of fell apart in my mouth. The deviled crawfish and pickled fennel added a nice sourness that was a palate cleanser.
The tripel was a great homage to the Belgian tripel. It wasn’t as overpowering as I find Belgian tripels (possibly food would help). It had lovely citrus notes, some toast and mild sweetness.
Crisp-Skin Duck Breast
Housemade Kraut, Sorghum Mustard, Barrel-Aged Ghoul’s Night Out Beer Salt
Paired with Barrel-Aged Ghoul’s Night Out (11% ABV)
Aged in Catoctin Creek Grape Brandy Barrels
Next we moved onto the duck, which to quote my man friend was “quacktastic”. The sorghum mustard added spicy notes combined with the barrel aged ghoul’s night our beer salt and beer itself. The beer had amazing caramel notes that brought out additional flavor in the duck.
Even though I prefer heavier beers, this may have been my favorite. It reminded me somewhat of a doppelbock with caramel flavors and a lovely smoothness.
We also had the opportunity to sample the Catoctin Creek Brandy to have a better understanding of how the beer was aged. This may be my new favorite brandy. It was very smooth with great vanilla notes and hints of molasses.
“Coffee & Doughnuts”
Paired with Barrel-Aged Penn Quarter Porter (5.5% ABV)
Obviously, I love donuts. I went to the donut party. One can never have enough donuts. As we finished our dinner, we were treated to donuts with light powdered sugar, chocolate ganche sauce, Barrel Aged Penn Quarter Porter and a coffee styled chaser.
The donuts were light, fluffy and warm. That’s a key to donuts is conning the mouth into thinking they are eating something that hasn’t been fried in grease. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
The barrel aging added more vanilla and toasty notes with hints of whiskey to the beer. It rounded the finish.
This was an amazing dinner with great people both attending and working the event. I always love my visits to 1905 and hope to go back soon.
Oh and DC Brau! I’m calling you out. Have more beer dinners!!
March 4th, 2013 • No Comments
I wanted to learn how to make the juiciest fried chicken and fluffiest biscuits in DC..
Chicken in the Fryer..
I had the really great luck to attend a cooking class on Thursday, February 28th, 2013 at a totally new facility in DC – the Union Kitchen. So you may ask what exactly IS Union Kitchen? That actually might be hard to explain, but let me give it a try – it’s a place for Start-Up food businesses to go the next level in production and ultimately business success. But not always..it’s also a commercial kitchen for Food Trucks and other food producers who can schedule a time and then produce their product for commercial purposes..but it’s also one more thing – a potentially excellent venue for hands-on cooking classes and events. In a nutshell, it’s an exciting opportunity for food ventures in DC to go to the next level – I was PSYCHED to go to this event! (Note: Here’s a really good explanation by City Paper )
Union Kitchen – DC’s Newest Food Business Incubator!
The Chef: I stole this from the Chef’s bio on her website, but I also would like to add that the chef was excellent at organizing and teaching a cooking class – she had wonderful rapport with the 10 attendees and she was very organized and straight to the point of the class – let’s get cookin’! Jessica also mentioned to me that she’s working on a commercial recipe for her Southern pimento cheese ..but I didn’t get much detail, I’m sure there will be more to tell..From her page: Jessica O’Neal started JLOkitchens to share her love of Southern cuisine with the District. She teaches cooking classes at CulinAerie, is a personal chef for a very tall man and is currently developing a line of Southern food products at Union Kitchen. She will gladly trade you her tasty pimento cheese for honest feedback and/or champagne.
The Class: This class was held in a commercial kitchen, so we used the same industrial equipment that all of the commercial businesses use, but our recipe was for producing similar amounts to what we would make at home. We got right down to cracking eggs, adding them to the flour with hunks of butter and making biscuits. The basic format was that we were shown how to make each dish with basic recipes and then broken down into groups to cook for the group.
The Secret to Great Biscuits: 1) cut in half..
Step 2: Layer and Press!
-Sweet Potato Herb Biscuits with Honey Butter – I finally learned the secret of making great biscuits – hunks of butter and folding the flour and compressing to create layers for steam and flakiness..
-Buttermilk Brined Fried Chicken – I actually missed the recipe for this part and basically all I did was flip some fried chicken (my fault – I was off on a tour of the facility!)-a much longer than expected slow fry in the oil made this chicken both crispy and cooked through..but the meat was really juicy – I ate it down to the bone!
-Creamy Cheddar Grits with Smoky Greens – this is actually 2 dishes, but they were combined. The secret is in both the type of corn grits and in the way they are ground – stone ground is best. And cheese was added at the very end only as a topping, rather than in the cooking process. We used curly Kale, but any green works for this dish.
-Cornbread Custard with Berry Coulis – this was a very simple dessert essentially using store bought corn bread, breaking it up and adding eggs and milk into a custard and heating at a relatively low temperature – simple, but classic comfort food!
-Bourbon Whipped Cream – real Bourbon..I should know, I was sipping some of that Jim Beam during the class..
Charlie Adler..cooking on the Job!
Conclusion: This was a really fun event in a great location..I was warned about this neighborhood, but when I found the space (it was a little hidden – but it’s an old warehouse building, c’mon!) and parking in front, I began to think – people are just living in the past..this facility IS the future of DC and the entrepreneurs who run it are the next wave for DC. Jessica gave a great cooking class and the facility is perfect for a multitude of events – there’s even additional spaces for Pop-Up Dinners, wine tastings and more culinary endeavors. OK, so it’s a bit edgy, but you know the expression – you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
The class is just getting started..
March 3rd, 2013 • No Comments
Everything is Bigger in Texas, but their wines are actually pretty subtle..
Charlie Adler, TasteDC and Andrew Stover, Vino 50 Selections
Andrew Stover of Vino 50 Selections presented some really great wines from his Texas portfolio at the TasteDC 6-Course Texas Wine Dinner at Mayfair & Pine on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013. Andrew is a well-known Sommelier and wine broker in the Washington, D.C. area who has a passion for American wines. My first question to Andrew prior to the event is how could Texas make great wines when the grapes have to suffer through such high heat and desert conditions. His reply was that hot dry weather is actually perfect for grapes – in fact, the dryness also prevents pests and allows the winemaker to actually make more natural/organic style wines. As far as we know, this was the first Texas wine dinner in the history of Washington, D.C. and thus an introduction of McPherson wines and Duchman Family wines to the dining public.
<Note: We have an Upcoming Anchor Beer Dinner on March 27th, 2013 at Mayfair and Pine>
Andrew Stover – Yee Haaahh!
The Dinner was my second at Mayfair and Pine, the first being the Champagne Dinner I attended in December at the restaurant. Chef Emily Sprissler is a Top Chef alum from Season 2 and she knows how to handle the heat! This event was held on a Saturday night which had the restaurant bustling both upstairs and downstairs – a real challenge for the chef.
Here’s the menu, the dishes and some comments about the dishes and wine pairings – Enjoy!
Welcome Amusee Bouche – Pork & Beans!
Welcome Amusee Bouche – This was a take on “Pork and Beans” with homemade bacon – it was quite delicious and had a nice smoky/earthy aroma and flavor to get the meal festivities going! The McPherson Sparkling Chenin Blanc/Muscat went well with a nice effervescence and a touch of the peachy Muscat fruit which created a tasty combination.
Herbed Johnny Cakes with Citrus Butter & Micro Green Salad
Duchman Family Vermentino
I really enjoyed this pairing – I’m not a big white wine fan, but the acidity of the wine cut through the citrus butter beautifully and actually made the dish much lighter to enjoy more food!
Herbed Johnny Cakes with Citrus Butter & Micro Green Salad
“Angels on Horseback” – Chesapeake Oysters wrapped in bacon sauteed in Plum Butter served on Flatbread
McPherson ‘Tre Colore’ Mourvedre/Carignan/Viognier Blend
Anything wrapped in bacon is great, and these little oysters were nicely nestled in this crunchy chewy porky goodness. This wine was a classic Rhone varietal blend and the slight earthiness of the Mourvedre and Carignan is nicely balanced by the fruit and acidyt of the Viognier – this just goes to show you that America can produce French style wines that are just as good if not better than the originals – American wine ingenuity!
Halloumi Cheese & Radicchio Enchiladas
Halloumi Cheese & Radicchio Enchiladas
Duchman Family Sangiovese
Sangiovese is the grape of Chianti and so many spaghetti Italian dinners and it was a pleasant match in this wineries rendition. The slight spicyness of the sauce (almost like an Italian marinara) was tastefully offset by the roundness of the wine and created a nice marriage. Another fallacy is that traditional Mexican foods don’t go with wine (Cerveza!), but this again proved that wine is a great bedfellow with Mexican and authentic American cuisine.
Wild Boar Swedish Meatballs
Wild Boar Swedish Meatballs
McPherson ‘La Herencia’ Tempranillo
These were some spicy meatballs! The Tempranillo grape is grown in the dry hot regions of Spain, so this wine really shined..Probably my favorite wine of the night..well, except someone brought a 1o year old McPherson Syrah that was really Super!
Bacon Chocolate Pretzel S’mores
Bacon Chocolate Pretzel S’mores
Coffee & Tea
It was overall a very nice meal and Texas wines will now be one of my Go-To staples – I’ve learned (over and over again!) that you should never assume with wine – just because you think a State is too hot, or cool, or whatever to produce wine, well then they’ll start producing wine, and you’ll be surprised. According to Andrew, Texas is the 6th largest producer of wine in the U.S. What other states are producing wine in the 7th to 50th positions? Who knows!?
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
March 2nd, 2013 • No Comments
And the Winner is..
I attended a Startup Kitchen competition sponsored by ThinkLocalFirstDC on Monday, February 25th held at the Tabula Rasa event space at Barracks Row, a main street of Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. The competitors for this competition were Yael Krigman of Baked by Yael , Nadia Mitchem of S’Mores Amore and Meg Murray of Thunder Pig Confectionary. The Concept of this event was that 3 food producers in the DC area compete to raise funds for their culinary venture. In a nutshell, The winner was offered an 8-week incubation and mentorship program with Penny Karas of Hello Cupcake in her Barracks Row location – here’s the actual competition info:
Thunder Pig’s Marshmallow
Through a competitive process modeled on the Kauffman Foundation’s StartUp Weekend, food entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to present their concepts before a panel of food industry veterans who will critique their business plans, offer constructive advice and review the general soundness of the concepts. The selected winner of the competition will be given access to an existing restaurant during its off hours, mentorship of the incubating business owner as well as assistance marketing and running a ticketed Pop-Up of their concept for six weeks. The restaurateur will receive 75% of ticket sales from restaurant as well as feedback from the consumers dining. The long-term goal is the growth of StartUp Kitchen incubators citywide. StartUp Kitchen is a joint partnership between Think Local First DC and NURISH: Center for Creative Culinary Economy.
The evening began with a nice reception of sparkling wine and tons of sweets – take a look..About 50 people watched the Judges and the competitors each make 10 minute presentations with 10 minutes of mostly Judge questioning. Yael started and of course we got to sample her Cakepop. Yael was very seasoned and professional, but maybe the presentation was a bit “canned” – her background was as a Corporate Lawyer, and it really showed for 2 reasons: 1)she’s a perfectionis and she had pretty much memorized her verbal presentation, 2)she was very secretive about her financial matters. Although I understand were she was coming from, she really needed to let go a bit and show the passion..maybe even show a little emotion – it’s obvious she could make WAY more money as a corporate attorney, the only reason to get into a Startup food business is an emotional release and the “possibility” of one day making it Big. I also thought her Cake Pops were too sweet and when I heard the retail price was $2.75 for essentially 2 bites of cake and icing, I didn’t get it! Having said this, I spoke with her afterwards and I actually felt her desire to succeed – I mentioned that her concept would do best as a corporate event giveaway or for weddings and personal catered events – there is no reason to open up a storefront and compete with the world!
Cake Pops Galore!
The next competitors were the S’mores Amore ladies – they focused on their presentation on the vegetarian and potentially vegan aspect of their s’mores. To be honest, I really enjoyed their product with the crunchy cookie and chocolate, but the marshmallow..well, it wasn’t really a marshmallow – it had no fluff to it..this is because they don’t use gelatin because it’s an animal-based product. My thoughts were these were 2 passionate food producers who don’t really need a storefront – there are enough family, friends and friends of friends in their circles for them both to make a nice profit just selling there. Too many entrepreneurs want to open a storefront and expand too quickly before they’ve exhausted their existing resources – the people they already know. The other reason to focus on your existing personal networks is feedback – is there really enough demand for vegetarian desserts, should this just be an option that they offer?
And the final presentation was the winning presenter – Megan Murray of Thunder Pig Confectionary (here’s an article of her win on Eater) – This was an easy choice for a few reasons: 1)She showed the passion and even a bit of nervousness in her presenation that just made it very Real, 2)Her background and culinary training plus she works at a fine dining restaurant in the region (The Foodie Mafia!), 3)Even though she sampled 3 products, they were all very good (especially the Salted Caramel and the Marshmallows!) and 4)She knew her competitive market or at least mentioned that – it’s next to impossible to find decent caramels and handmade marshmallows in the DC market. I also found out that she was already producing her products for wholesale at Union Kitchen, a new culinary incubator which just began in the area. She won the competition and I’m sure you’ll hear about her products soon in the DC area!
Here Comes the Judge – Mark Furstenberg, Bread Artisan
February 18th, 2013 • No Comments
I’ve been to many cooking classes and in fact many Pasta Making classes so it was really fun to attend a creative take on a cooking class organized as part of the Barracks Row Culinary Education Crawl on Sunday, February 17th, 2013 held at various restaurants on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. as well as the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital – a truly cool space!
I took 2 classes, but this article will only cover the class Pasta Making With Chef Wendi – a 60 minute class where 12 total participants got to make our own pasta and share in the meal afterwards – all for a whopping 20 Bucks! I’ll take you through a quick run-through of the class:
Instructor: Wendi James who teaches quite a few culinary classes at other schools in the region including at Culinaerie, Sur La Table – Pentagon City, VA (or she said she once did – another story!) and at her own cooking school Rutabaga Sweets. I spoke with her before class and she has quite a pedigree having worked at many top-rated restaurants in the U.S. (she worked at Restaurant Daniel NYC, The Inn at Little Washington and Charlie Trotters Chicago) and hailing from serious Foodie City Chicago. Her attitude was refreshingly honest and she spoke her mind about the local restaurant scene and her plans to open up a breakfast place in Asheville, NC. As an instructor, she was direct and “get to work” – but of course we only had 1 hour to make both hand-roll fettucine and ravioli with the hand-cranking pasta machines – no time to dilly-dally..
Flour, Eggs and maybe 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil!
Pasta Ingredients – simple..all you really need is All-Purpose flour, some eggs, and a little olive oil (you could actually skip the olive oil). I was working with 2 other cooks who had never made pasta homemade before. Maybe you can get a little fancy and learn to crack an egg with one hand, but one secret to getting the egg in the flour with No Shell is to crack the egg against a flat surface NOT the bowl. If you mix it in a bowl, it’s very forgiving, but it’s nice to make a small “well” in the middle of the flour to hold the eggs and then swirl a fork (or your hand – watch out, it can get sticky/messy!) until the ingredients all become a dough..if it’s too sticky, add some flour, if it’s too dry, add a little water, it’s very forgiving.
State of the Art Cooking Facility
The Facility and Setup: Class is held in Hill Center’s state-of-the Art teaching kitchen. It was relatively small – only fitting 1 instructor and 12 participants, but it was truly an easy kitchen to learn from and to do hands-on cooking. There was the main table where everyone gathered round in a circle with the burners, and then there were 2 work tables in the back for up to 6 participants each. Things were kept very simple – we were given a bowl of flour and eggs, some olive oil and a tablespoon, and the ravioli filler which we had to cut up the basil and add to the ricotta and parmesan cheese to put into the ravioli’s – just like Italian food, there were simple ingredients and simple instructions. If you’ve ever been to Italy and have seen how pasta is made – it’s very simple and traditionally was done by Grandma at home. BTW – you can also make pasta without the eggs and just using water – that’s how it’s often done in the south of Italy. And then, we had to roll..
Hand making Ravioli
Once you make the dough, you can wait an hour or immediately begin rolling it out into sheets. The way it works is that you begin with the widest opening, do that a few times until the dough kind of “comes together” (the gluten begins to stretch and take shape) and then you keep feeding the sheet into smaller/narrower settings until you get to the lowest setting – and boy, does the dough spread out – I mean it can go for yards! The same sheet of dough can be used for noodles or for ravioli and fillings – I once took a class where different kinds of flour were used for both (All Purpose Flour for Ravioli because it’s relatively soft/tender, semolina flour for a chewier pasta) but frankly it’s a matter of personal taste.
Cooking Pasta: The sauce in this class was made for us (another post on Sauce..soon..) but in a nutshell there was a white sauce with cheese and cream and a red sauce with tomatoes of course. So Chef Wendi boiled the pasta in unsalted water – a discussion ensued – in Italy, they always salt their water for pasta (“as salty as the sea” is the famous quote on how much salt for pasta water – this always starts an argument with Italian cooks!) – her philosophy is you don’t salt the pan when you sear a steak, you salt the steak – so my interpretation is that the pasta/ingredients and the salt should be properly salted. In my own defense of the Italian way of salting the water – it depends – for example, if you cook your greens in the salted water before you cook your pasta (like for Broccoli Rabe and Orecchiette), you have a very flavorful pasta water..well, just like 2 Italians, Chef Wendi and I may never agree!
Upcoming Pasta Classes on the TasteDC Site:
-Handmade Pasta Workshop at the Kitchen Studio (Frederick, MD) (February 21st, 2013)
-Pasta Fatta in Casa (Pasta Made at Home) II at Culinaria (Saturday, February 23rd, 2013)
-Pierogi Cooking Class at Hills Kitchen (February 23rd, 2013)
-Fresh Pasta Workshop at Sur La Table (March 13th, 2013)
-Handmade Pasta and Sauce at Cookology (Ashburn, VA) (Saturday, March 23rd, 2013)
February 10th, 2013 • No Comments
I love dumplings..actually, I love any starch covered meat/seafood/vegetable whether it’s fried, boiled, steamed or sauteed! I attended a really unique and fun cooking class organized by AIWF’s DC Chapter with Executive Chef Scott Drewno at The Source in downtown DC on Saturday, February 9th, 2013. Here are the highlights and some photos – you WILL salivate when you see the dishes..and honestly, I just can’t forget the mouth-watering aromas of ginger, garlic and soy in so many wonderful combinations..in some ways you really need your sense of smell to appreciate this post!
1)Layout – very unique and maybe a bit daunting at the beginning, but there were 3 separate seating areas with 3 individual cooking demonstration stations. It was sort of like theater in the round, with the main Chef Scott Drewno in the middle station (he’s on the far left in the photo above) with his “Madonna” headseat on and 2 separate chefs demonstrating on opposite/perpendicular sides of the stage – I guess you could call it a 3-Chef C-Stage Cooking Demonstration. Unusual, but it worked mainly because of the entertainment value and also because you could watch your own chef – a very creative use of a space that actually is difficult to layout for classroom style events!
2)The Menu – I usually have a pretty low expectation of a cooking class that is simple food like dumplings, but then again, I know chef Drewno notoriously is an impressive foodie and he couldn’t (wouldn’t) let us down. Here’s the menu and dish photos are below:
Yummy fall-off-the-bone Spare Ribs!
Sea Scallop Sui Mai
Chinese New Dumpling Class Menu
-Chinese Spare Ribs, Black Bean Glaze
-Sea Scallop Sui Mai, Curried Lobster Emulsion
-Pork Belly Pot Stickers, Black Vinegar, Chili Oil
-Szechuan Style Green Beans, Candied Walnuts
-Crystal Chive Dumpling, Kurobuta Pork, King Crab
-Chilled Cucumber Salad, Toasted Sesame, Togarashi
-Szechuan “Dan Dan” Dumpling, Organic Chicken, Peanut Sauce
-Millet Congee, Red Braised Pork Belly, Pickled Butternut Squash Relish
Dragon’s Fire Cocktail
3)The Process – we sat down at various dining room tables and actually got some hands-on hand-rolling of 2 kinds of pork dumplings, we each had 2 wrappers of each kind to roll. Now we got a complete explanation and demo of how to roll, and then we rolled up our sleeves, dipped our finger in the egg wash and wrapped up the mini-balls of meat into dumplings. Some people were good, some were ok, and some simply had falling apart dumplings, but hey, we weren’t going to eat these anyway – the meal was prepared for us. Primarily a demonstration cooking class, I found myself talking to my fellow Foodies more than actually listening to the class – I probably could have learned more, but honestly the vibe in the room and the amount of alcohol being served (sparkling wine and that tasty Dragon’s Fire Cocktail with Tequila!) kept the noise/buzz omni-present – if this had been my first cooking class, maybe a bad thing, but for experienced Foodies it was actually a really fun event.
4)The meal – served primarly family style (except for the Millet Congee and the dessert), it was fun to share with 3 other people at my table. My Foodie Buddie Bruce Miller (who has attended at least 200 TasteDC events or more in the past) was very experienced at these events. I actually prefer the family style method of serving – it helps create rapport and camaraderie. By sharing food, I learned more about my newfound fellow foodies than if everything had been individually plated. Some specific comments: the variety of dishes, proteins and vegetables was very thought out – from garlicky clams to
Millet Congee, Red Braised Pork Belly, Pickled Butternut Squash Relish
rich pork belly and braised pork belly, back to the Sea Scallops Sui Mai and then finally to the deliciously syrupy dessert (I forget the name!). Also the Chilled Cucumber Salad helped to cool my palate and acted sort of like an Amuse Bouche between dishes – actually the Cocktail did the same with it’s Tequila and grapefruit – a very smart way of using a drink to refresh the palate!
5)Service – I was really impressed by the Source’s staff and presentation and service – they cared..something that you don’t always get with service nowadays, but each server was focused and putting in effort. There were many parts too – the hot hand towels which came out twice, the initial layout of the wrappers on a small granite plate with a moist towel on top to protect the integrity of the dumpling wrappers, the pouring of sparkling wine, the making and serving of the cocktail, and the actual serving of the food which was primarily family style. There was one obliteration of glassware episode – and I mean ExPloDing glass – but luckily it was to the side, and the server quickly cleaned it up – no harm, no foul..in fact, maybe an extra plus for handling a delicate situation so well!
Superb Service at the Source!
6)Overall Impression – very professional presentation and staff, but not stiff – I felt like things were being taken care of without pretense. This event was very much theater in the round and in fact, there were two un-affiliated groups of people present – the AIWF DC Chapter and a list of Chef Scott Drewno’s contacts/Foodies. I thought the cooking layout of 3 chef demonstration stations although unusual, it created some theater and a chance for more discussion – and it was the best use of the available space which is awkwardly broken up by an atrium/stairwell. The space is actually quite visually pleasing with the extensive windows and the wine wall next to the stairwell. Chef Drewno is also a very good presenter and entertaining and answered questions clearly from the audience – Scott knows his Asian ingredients – oh, and this WaPo article will give you some background on that. Really curious about ethnic food? Then Check Out Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
December 17th, 2012 • No Comments
3 Stars Inaugural Artists & Artisans Holiday Extravaganza – This Shindig Got Me Drinkin!
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 marked 3 Stars Brewery’s launch into the world of Art and Beer with their new Mural at their 6400 Chillum Place Brewery and a Who’s Who of DC Food and Drink Artisans.
This was a DC Foodie Scene:
Michael Lowe, Green Hat Gin
-I finally tried (and met the owners of DC’s First Distillery) Green Hat Gin – I really like their blend of spices with alot of Indian spice like cardamom and interestingly it reminded me alot of Pisco. Michael Lowe and John Uselton were both there and I could feel their enthusiasm for DC’s first Distillery in many years. Currently, they offer the chance to work their bottling line at the Distillery, but we talked about a more in-depth class like a Distilling 101, more news soon..
-Qualia Coffee’s Joel Finkelstein was sampling his off-premise brand “Fresh Off the Roast” and talking about his recent tasting with some DC Local Press – Here’s the article from Tim Carman over at WaPo about Joel’s indignation over the lack of quality crafted coffee in DC Restaurants
Carolyn Stromberg of Righteous Cheese
-I sampled some of Righteous Cheese ‘s well, cheeses, and chatted with the Founder Carolyn Stromberg about the need for more cheese classes in DC. Her schedule is so busy and a retail cheese shop is so demanding of her time, that she felt she could only do a limited number, but expect to see more in 2013.
Dave Coleman w/3 Stars Brewing at Repeal Ball
-3 Stars was pouring Pandemic Porter, Southern Belle, Peppercorn Saison, Sea Change Pale Ale, Winter Madness, Global Pandemic (Bulleit barrel-aged Pandemic Porter (aged six months from the first brew in the brewery) blended with fresh Pandemic Porter) and all were delicious – I definitely remember the oak, vanilla and smoke of the last beer which would be perfect with some BBQ pork ribs! Dave Coleman was having a great time with the release of the new mural made by local artist Kendra Kuliga – I also noticed that the warehouse space had room for expansion..sort of a hint?
-Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s was slicing up some salty and delicious brisket as well as some briney Edwards Virginia Hams (which remind me alot of Spain’s Serrano Ham).
-Sampled some charcuterie with Three Little Pigs co-owner Carolina Gomez – she told me the store would be closed much of January because she’ll be getting married.
-Gordy’s Pickles Sheila Fain spoke with me about the phenomenal growth of her spears and how Whole Foods was carrying them in all of their DC markets. I had to bring up the curious local connection of Rob Duncan of Dolcezza creating a special Thai basil jalapeño sorbetto, featuring Thai basil jalapeños from Gordy’s Pickle Jar
Rappahanock Oysters was tasting some of their wonderful salty Virginia oysters. I’m hoping they do more tasting events and dinners in Washington, D.C. – Although we have one major oyster fest (Oyster Riot at Old Ebbitt Grille), there is definitely enough demand for more events around oysters and easily we could pair them with other local artisan products..speaking of which..
There were also Cocktails by Nick Nazdin of El Chucho & Carlo Bruno of Sidebar, but by this point I was so looped, that I had no palate to speak of!
A fun time had by all and a very good idea for future new concept events – maybe we could do a DC Brew and Oyster Fest, or a DC Cocktail Expo, or even a Chesapeake Wine and Oyster Fest..there are a myriad of possibilities and definitely the demand is there for these type of Foodie Experiences – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler