Counter Intelligence

Everyone Needs a Nancy

Posted in Niche by melissamccart on August 28, 2006

gv.jpgWhen I first moved from New York, I missed about a thousand things about the city: the energy, the arts, the feeling that I could walk out the door and something unusual or exciting could and often did happen.  Now that the dust has settled and it’s been nearly two years since I’ve moved to D.C, I’ve assessed what I really miss and what I can do without.

Even though I’m not necessarily a wine fiend, one of places I miss most is Nancy’s Wines for Food on Columbus at 85th on the west side.  Nancy’s is known for having the largest Austrian and German selection in New York. She has over 100 Reislings in stock.  And for any of you who are Terri Theise fans, that’s a big deal.  Nancy and her staff are always helpful and knowledgeable, lucky for us.  When I lived nearby it was a rare day when my old roommate or I would take home a bottle of wine we didn’t like. 

It was there I learned how interesting a Gruner Veltliner can be.  They’re yet to be discovered or in demand in D.C.(with the exception of Joe Riley’s), since Calvert Woodley and Whole Foods rarely have more than two.  If only we had a Nancy.

The other reason I’m grateful to Nancy is because she introduced me to the best novice’s wine manual of all time, Willie Gluckstern’s Wine Avenger.  With chapters entitled, “Restaurant Markups:  Those Bastards!” and assessments of Chardonnay as “oak bludgeoned” and “the world’s most overrated grape,” its a funny, quick, wry read.  More important, Gluckstern delivers good advice: 

Where food is concerned, . . . lighter, fruiter, more acidic wines (usually whites) are better.  Heavier, higher alcohol,  oaky wines (usually reds) are far less versatile.  In short, white wines go better with more food than red wines.  And, what’s more, you might say that the best red wines for most foods. . . are those that behave the most like whites. 

Gluckstern lists Reisling, Chenin Blanc, and Savignon Blanc as most versatile whites and Cab Franc, Barbera, Gamay, and Pinot Noir as the most food friendly red grapes. He also has a section on Gruner Veltliners, in which he says– if you can find them– “Get some!  Now!”

Had I not had access to Nancy, I would have thought he was full of it.  Now I know better.


City Grocery Beckons

Posted in South by melissamccart on August 28, 2006

mccart-percy-rehearsal-3208.JPGFor Labor Day weekend, I’ll be heading to Oxford, Mississippi  to attend my first Ole Miss football game and tailgate in The Grove.  Since I don’t know jack about football and I’m from the north, I’m definitely more excited about the tailgating spread and the people watching than about having to wear a dress to a football game or actually setting foot in the stadium. 

For any northern foodie looking to experience authentic regional food in a southern town, I’d definitely recommend Oxford as a close second to Charleston, South Carolina.  As far as great restaurants, there’s the L & M Kitchen and Salumeria, run by Batali-trained Dan Latham; the amazingly delicious chick-on-a-stick at the Chevron station at Lamar and University; Taylor Grocery for catfish and bluegrass in hillbilly ambience; Bottletree Bakery for Oprah-endorsed pastries; and The Beacon for breakfast with an attitude.  How many other diners have Confederate flag wallpaper and a sign that reads, “Naw, we ain’t got no sweet tea”?

I’m most looking forward to eating at City Grocery, where John Currence is allegedly trying out “pork rind crusted fried chicken,” according to the Southern Foodways Symposium information.   Hooray cholesterol!

Cadillac John at the City Grocery.

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Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 23, 2006

limerickey.gif1)  BLT Gets and S.  Chicago Tribune. Though I’m not the biggest Wolfgang Puck fan, I like that the Trib’s running with the BLT as the means by which to make end of summer grilling “more interesting,” particularly since the BLT buzz is everywhere.

2) Lime Rickeys:  Summer in a Glass.  Boston Globe.  In this piece, the writer likens this drink to tomatoes, lemonade, and corn on the cob.  Perhaps I’ve been living under a rock, since I hadn’t heard of them.  I may need to make this tomorrow.

A lime rickey — simple syrup, soda water, ice, and squeezed lime quarters — is the warm-weather equivalent of hot chocolate: a delicious drink with an appealing connotation of comfort, quaintness, and childhood.

3) A Latin Fiesta, Near the BQE.  New York Times.  The legend of the Latin food carts has been word on the street back when Red Hook was home to open fields and scary packs of dogs–well before the Fairway moved in.  It’s nice that the Times is writing about them more prominently than it had in the past.

4) Tasters’ Choice:  Trader Joe’s Deemed Best Uncured BaconSan Francisco Chronicle.   Couched in the BLT reference, the Chronicle mentions the rise in demand for uncured bacon.  Yet it’s never referred to as pancetta.  Isn’t it the same thing?

5) Oysters, and Other Options.  The Washington Post.  Solid end of summer grilling options, included a delicious suggestion for a low country oyster roast. 

Chow Chow for Chow

Posted in Niche, South by melissamccart on August 21, 2006

chow.jpgYet another southern food item that’s new to me:  Mrs. Campbell’s Chow Chow.  During a beach trip to North Carolina, our friend Meg said that we had to have it as a condiment on collard greens.  Apparently it serves the same purpose as apple cider vinegar, serving a side of bite that gets your glands working.

Mrs. Campbell’s website describes chow chow as a perfect compliment to beans, peas, and greens, as well as meat poultry, and fish.  Though it’s tough to find outside of the south, it’s easy enough to make.  The writer from the Austin Statemen who writes the piece on Austin 360 describes chow chow as a retro condiment making a comeback:

Chow chow

Several food reference books suggest that the concept of chow chow came to the U.S. with Chinese laborers, but others think its roots might be from India. Regardless, gardeners love the relish as a way to preserve the leftover harvest of the garden in a crunchy, savory way. Not puréed, chow chow is a thick, hearty mixture with texture. It generally has a vinegar base and its heat level can vary from mild to muy picante.

Some cooks say chow chow typically has five to 12 vegetables in the mix, yet others make it with only two or three. Cabbage is usually one. So are onions and peppers. “Appalachian Home Cooking” notes that celery, lima beans, green beans, corn, ripe tomatoes, even apples have found their ways into jars.

“I just like to sit around with a Mason jar of chow chow and a fork and wolf it down. It has great texture and contrast of flavors between sweet and sour,” says John Pecore, chef/CEO of the P&K Grocery under construction at 915 W. Mary St. “Chow chow stays crunchy. It preserves well.” He likes to give jars of it as gifts and plans to make and market it under the P&K label.


Heirlooms Unveiled

Posted in District of Columbia, Niche by melissamccart on August 18, 2006

acquacotta.jpgTuscany-trained home chef Linda Bacchante swears her summer acquacotta would not be as delicious had she used beefsteak tomatoes rather than her favorite Cherokee Purples.  In the Tuscan spirit of using local ingredients, Linda believes that this heirloom variety simply tastes better when she uses them as the staple in this classic soup from the Maremma region of Italy.

As part of the late-August peak of tomato season, food enthusiasts such as Linda are not only buying up the tomato bounty; they’re seeking out organic, heirloom varieties such as Green Zebras, Brandywines, and Orange Canyons sold primarily at farmers’ markets and specialty stores. In addition, with the rise of Whole Foods and a growing appreciation for organic and local food, it’s a given that people would seek out heirlooms this summer more than they have in seasons past.  (more…)

Wander, Gypsy

Posted in District of Columbia, Everywhere Else by melissamccart on August 18, 2006

From Seattlest:

There’s subterfuge on the menu at the mysterious restaurant called gypsy.jpgGypsy. With no permanent address, a revolving list of chefs creating original menus for each clandestine dinner, and an application process that weeds out potential diners who’d betray the cause, Gypsy has us buzzing. . . . The man behind it all says Gypsy is a success because diners find it liberating to leave their comfort zone: they eat with strangers, don’t get to order their food, and don’t even know where they’re going until a few days before the dinner. . . . Chefs are excited to participate because they get the opportunity to make food that’s entirely different from their usual fare.

What do we need to do to bring something like this to Washington? Not only would it allow chefs the opportunity to feed more than lawyers, lobbyists and tourists; it would appeal to foodies, scenesters, and anyone in-between.  This city needs an infusion of non-government sponsored cultural events to boost its appeal to more urbane tourists and residents.  (more…)

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest, Uncategorized by melissamccart on August 18, 2006

heirlooms.jpg1) Voting With Their Forks:  If 1967 Was the Summer of Love, then this is the Summer of Food.  Los Angeles Times.  Regina Schrambling addresses why foodie books such as Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma have inspired the rise of the locavore and Americans’ embrace of farmers’ markets.

2) Lunch, a la Cart.   Joe Yonan of the Boston Globe samples food cart cuisine for a solid week.  From burritos, to pho, to Big Moe’s ribs, food from carts in Boston offer something for everyone.  If you’re missing Boston, this piece is great for its depiction of the city’s streetlife.

3) Tomatoes Give Chefs a Rainbow.  Chicago Tribune. One of the few major metropolitan papers that actually talk technical about heirlooms this season.  At Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, chef Sarah Stegner is making the most of heirloom tomatoes–including green zebras, brandywines and Cherokee purples–that she buys from Shooting Star Farm in Wisconsin and Kinnikinnick Farm in northern Illinois.”
                                                                                                                                                     4) Kitchen Savvy for the Beach Cook.  The Washington Post.  For those of you who are still looking forward to your end of summer vacation, this piece offers helpful suggestions that make cooking away from home easier.

5) A Food Website, Spiced with Attitude.  New York Times.  CNet, the company that bought Chowhound, will soon launch, a hip, young alternative to epicurious and other traditional media websites.