Counter Intelligence

Thank you Eater

Posted in New York City by melissamccart on November 30, 2006

2006_11_commonwealth3.jpgfor this sign. . . . . .

And for pointing readers to the Page Six report that Danny Meyer is opening Union Square Cafe in Tokyo.


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 29, 2006

kuhn_rikon_duo_food.gif1) Rich Flavor Makes This One to Savor.  Boston Globe.  Two words:  salmon cheesecake.

2) Knock It, Then Try It.  New York Times.  Why are people afraid of pairing eggs with their alcohol? (The other piece on drinks is the declaration of Rye as the new black.)

3) Slow Cookers Help Families in the Fast Lane.  Chicago Tribune.  Slow cookers may remind you of 70’s tchotchkies and shag rugs, but they’re back and they’re allegedly better. 

4) Gadgets Galore for Gift Giving.  San Francisco Chronicle.  From the article, it appears that Emily Post and the Stepfords are having a resurgence.  “Right now,” the gadget merchandiser for SF’s downtown Crate & Barrel said, “everyone is buying cookie cutters, basters, meat thermometers, place-card holders and stainless steel prep cups.”

5) Paris Lightens Up, Soars.  Los Angeles Times. Paris restaurants are more playful, flexible, and fun, according to one reviewer’s experience.  That we’d still think otherwise is like assuming all food in Berlin is still all bratwurst and sourkraut.

Farrah Olivia’s Spice Rack, Among Other Things

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on November 28, 2006

img_1274_edited.jpgOne of the most interesting parts of visiting Morou Ouattara’s kitchen is his spice wall.  I’m not particularly well versed in African-influences in food, but after smelling palm, bacon, and coffee powders, dried melon seeds, dried escargot, alligator pepper, and grains of paradise, I definitely want to learn more. 

I’m not scheduled to eat here until Saturday, but after this teaser, I’m looking forward to it.

Have you been yet?  What were the highlights for you?

Farrah Olivia.  600 Franklin Street. Alexandria.

Good Mornin’ N’walins.

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 28, 2006

roux13.jpgStill recovering from Alan Richman’s droll assessment in last month’s GQ over the mediocre state of New Orleans’ cuisine?

Get back on kilter with Southern Foodways NOLA Eats show,which includes interviews with New Orleanians on the oyster–“Why would anyone name a restaurant after a month that doesn’t end in R?”–  as well as chat about the state of cuisine, post Katrina. Warning: though there’s plenty of food talk, there’s alot of music and meandering.

Then, some technical stuff: How to Make A Roux.  This isn’t any old roux.  It’s instructions from Billy Grueber at Liuzza’s by the Track.  The transcript is pretty interesting, particularly since he cooks it until it’s almost black.  He calls it “Cajun Napalm.” Check it out.

Never Mind the Turkey. . . Here’s the Oyster Roast

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 26, 2006

I’m not sure why 76975700_95bbbbe152.jpgNortherners don’t do oyster roasts, but they should.  Sure, if you’re an oyster aficionado, there’s nothing better than raw Kumimotos or Blue Points on the half shell.  But the roast is a little more egalitarian and a lot more social.  Besides, condiments are fun.

Before I’d been to one, the Lee Brothers wrote about roasting oysters in the broiler of their LES apartment a couple of years ago, which sounded interesting.  But it’s much more fun to stand around the grill at a cabin outside Charlottesville on a late Thanksgiving evening, sipping beer, catching up, listening for the call of night hawks, beset by the smell of evaporating sea water, matted leaves, and pine.

After I got all excited about them, my parents embraced the tradition76975701_72551d2e9a1.jpg.  This year, my father ordered 250 oysters, some from Louisiana, the rest from the Chesapeake.  And they were so good. 

As the Lee Brothers instructed, if you don’t have a grill, you’re not out of luck.   Still, there’s something about an oyster roast and get-togethers that makes the outdoor experience more memorable and delicious.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 22, 2006

beans1.jpg1)  An Owner No More, Alpha Dog Prowls.   New York Times. Interesting piece on Jim Leff, what he’s doing now, and what irked critics about his board and food proclamations.

Jim is unflaggingly enthusiastic, but he puts you to stringent tests,” said Sylvia Carter, a food columnist for Newsday, who has known Mr. Leff since he was in high school. (He used to write her fan letters.) “The first time Jim ever had tomato bread in Spain, the tomato was on one side. Now if you tell him you like tomato on both sides, his lip begins to quiver.”

2)  The Weekly Dish:  Farrah Olivia.  Washington Post.  West African flavors play a more dominant role in Morou Ouattara’s new restaurant in Alexandria. 

3) The Dog Ate My Turkey. . .And Other Thanksgiving Disasters. San Francisco Chronicle.  In case you need some levity.

4) Giving Thanks, Again.  Chicago Tribune.  The paper reprints readers favorite recipes. 

5) Ok, so this article was not in the food section of the New York Times, but in yesterday’s Business section.  It’s so interesting:  Coffee Snobs Move on to Homemade Roasts.  Chris Becker of Arlington is the opening example of those who are pioneering an allegedly rising trend:  roasting your own at home. 

The Drink Master

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on November 20, 2006

rrbar2.jpgI just talked to Jim Hughes, the bar manager at The Round Robin at the Willard. A handful of things I learned from him:

1) Drinks with bitters sound delicious, particularly the Sazerac, an old timey drink that originated in 1830’s New Orleans, made with bourbon, Pernod, and, of course, bitters.

2) Drinks from the past are cool: the Bees Knees in particular.  It’s a concoction of gin, triple sec, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3) Because of its effervescence, Champagne is allegedly a mood lifter rather than a depressant like other alcoholic drinks. No wonder why a Kir Royale is so much fun to drink.

The Round Robin is open until midnight on Thanksgiving eve.  A Bees Knees or a Champagne cocktail sounds like an ideal way to wrap up the holiday.

Jim Hughes at the Round Robin.  1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

The Communal Table, Eating at the Bar: Then and Now

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 19, 2006

tab231_d.jpgIn his blog the other day, Bruni went to Boqueria and sat at the communal table, which he observes as fulfilling a similar purpose as the bar for some diners: 

The communal table encourage(s) mingling with other diners. . . . Both arrangements feel less formal to them, and they like that even more. As they talked about the kind of mood and experience they seek, it became clear that they want to eat in classy, grown-up restaurants without feeling like they’re eating in classy, grown-up restaurants — that they want to add notes of adventurousness and rebelliousness to the mix. Eating at the bar does that for them.

In the South, family style dining is nothing new, though granted the table then had a different connotation from those in New York restaurants today.  In Southern Food, John Edgerton observes that family style tables in restaurants had both “the hallmark of plantation society,” as well as  “a post Civil War and Great Depression . . attitude of indulgence in the bounty of the table, whatever it offered, for leaner times were apt to be ahead.” Interesting that table dining had high/low associations then as it does now.  

I’m not as enthusiastic for the communal table as I am for the bar.  For one, there’s the space factor. When I sit next to a stranger at the bar, it’s normal.  At a communal table, it’s not, really.  Besides, at the bar, it’s not weird if you shift your seat around or have your back to someone, where at communal tables, you’re bound to either join in conversation with others around you or eavesdrop, since it’s more difficult to box others out to create your own space. Bruni acknowledges that they can be awkward as well.

Do you think that the communal table and the bar fulfill a similar purpose? Will we see more of both around Washington in the next year or so?  I wonder.


Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest by melissamccart on November 17, 2006

images5.jpgEvery time I turn around, someone’s talking about quince.  Though I know what it is, I looked it up to learn that perhaps one reason why they’re so fragrant is because they’re from the rose family. In addition–if you believe wikipedia–it was the original fruit in marmelade and they’re only edible when cooked. Not that I’ve ever bit into a raw quince, but I thought they’re similar to pears.

 Here’s an unscientific observation of the rise and plateau of quince.  I’m not sure when exactly the restaurant  opened San Francisco, I’m guessing it was late 2003.  Hook the pr train up to Alice Waters references, instigate the domino effect online and in print:”What the hell is quince again?”  and sit back to watch as it becomes an everyday fall ingredient in 2004, then again in 2005 as a glaze, in pies, etc.

Now, quince is no scuppernong, which hasn’t yet had its nationwide revival.  You can get them just about anywhere.  If you can’t find them fresh, you’re sure to find them as preserves.  Even Brookeville has it.   And, when Martha Stewart touts it, quince is not only mainstream, it may just be losing its cache.

If you search Rockwell for quince, it appears that plenty of home cooks use it, some of the more daring chefs– at Komi, Maestro, Firefly, etc– as well as the cheese ladies at Cheesetique and Cowgirl Creamery.  That’s how I had it tonight–paired with pecorino.  Delicious.  Even if it was the darling of last fall.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 15, 2006

crab_boats.jpg1) Crab Season Gets Crackin’: Boats due today loaded with that delectable San Francisco treat.  San Francisco Chronicle. Sigh. If only we were there to enjoy the first catch with our San Francisco friends. 

2)  McDonald’s is making over all its US restaurants.  Boston Globe.  Look for leather couches, plasma tvs and wi-fi access coming soon to a McDonald’s near you.

3) The Be-All, End-All Turkey.  Los Angeles Times.  Stop the presses!  A dry salt rub wins out over a brine, to the surprise and delight of the taste testers at the paper.

4) Family Touches:  Mingling Tastes and Traditions.  Washington Post. Korean, African, and Indian merge with traditional American dishes on the Thanksgiving table.

5) For 80 Cooks, Three Floors of Kitchens.  New York Times.  Despite that Gordon Ramsay’s new restaurant in the Rihga Hotel only seats 45, 80 chefs prep dishes influenced by French and US cuisine.