Counter Intelligence

Baseball and Bourbon

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on July 31, 2007

mmark_6.jpgWashingtonians thirsty for nostalgia should RSVP for Pearson’s Frank Howard Day this Saturday from 12-3, where the man whose reputation with the old Washington Senators is as large as his stature.  At 6 feet 8 inches, Howard is one of the tallest men ever to play baseball. He was also the last to hit a home run at RFK Stadium as a Senator, where the 24 upper deck seats he dented were once painted white to memorialize the moment.  From the Post’s “No Place Like Home”:

The crowd of 14,460, angry and sad about the team’s imminent move to Texas, let out a thunderous roar, trying to will one last thrill from their beloved Bunyanesque slugger. Howard crushed a fastball into the left-field stands that night of Sept. 30, 1971.

The standing ovation went on for minutes. Rounding the bags, Howard tipped his hat and flung it into the stands. And in a page ripped from baseball legend, the giant of a man stood on the dugout’s top step, tears in his eyes, and blew a kiss to his cheering fans.

To celebrate Washington baseball, people from Maker’s Mark will be dipping bottles in Nationals red and blue seals at the store. And they’re on sale.

Pearson’s. 2346 Wisconsin Ave. NW. RSVP to steve@pearsonswine.com

Single Servings

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on July 29, 2007

domku2.jpgAny guy looking can bump into dozens of attractive women during summer in particular. For women, it’s different. If you’re not into the Brooks Brother’d prepsters, where does a girl go in and around the District for an eyeful? 

People watching isn’t as satisfying here as it is in bigger, more diverse cities–with people spilling out onto sidewalks, in parks, bodegas, airports, bars, post offices, and restaurants. But regardless of what city we live in, it’s a sport in any city, isn’t it? Sure, there’s more time for it when you’re single. I haven’t been single in years– since I moved from New York to Washington. But it seems tame here–like a Tuesday. For everyone’s sakes, I hope I’m wrong.

As far as restaurants for people watching are concerned, some people cite Tryst, since it’s always packed. While it seems that Tryst has its good days, it’s young. The other day I stopped by and saw at least five people filling out college applications or studying for SATs. On the other end of the spectrum is Penn Quarter’s  newly opened Proof. Pre-review, it’s a fun place to people watch during happy hour. Another friend whom many of you know and read suggests the farmers markets– particularly Thursday nights at Penn Quarter.  After all, farmers are are new chefs.  All that work in the great outdoors means they’re hotter than their pale office counterparts toiling at air-conditioned desks, fighting office ass, resisting break room donuts. 

There’s also W Domku, which is delicious in more ways than one.  When I went for brunch, it dawned on me that every time I’ve been, there are more guys than women and that both types are often hot, intriguing, funny, or all three. This afternoon was no exception. Oh, and the brunch is terrific, too.  I had a savory pancake with gouda, tomato, and mushroom with maple syrup for dipping, and a Polish coffee.  But because there are so few places like it in the District, I’m a little sentimental about Domku.  It’s one of my favorite neighborhood places in town. 

W Domku. 821 Upshur Street N.W.

(photo from DC Metroblogger)

Weekend Drinks

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on July 28, 2007

neoncocktailssign.jpg I’d noticed people are talking cocktails this week in particular. It’s five o’clock somewhere, so stir one up or get shakin’.

Que up some Johnny Cash for an Orange Blossom special.

Try one of Erin Zimmer’s Dark and Stormys over on Serious Eats–one of my favorites.

Or Metrocurean’s super spicy “Birth of Pain” Bloody Mary from Toigo Orchards.

Washington City Paper’s Tim Carman enjoyed his Bombay Sapphire Gin and Tonic at Johnny’s Half Shell.

Jamie Liu’s Michelada at Casa Oaxaca on Express sounds great, especially if you like Clamato.

Ambitious types with a well stocked bar should check out Natalie’s Sips of Summer list on The Liquid Muse: the Zen Time Cooler, a Summer Negroni, the White Sapphire Ginger Martini, a Bohemiana, or an Acai Caipirinha.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on July 25, 2007

white_wine_180.jpg1) Drink in the scents of summer. Los Angeles Times.  Emergency. Emergency. It’s a red alert food section in which the LA Times hits its readers over the head with an entire series dedicated to anything but oak, as far as white wine is concerned. In case you haven’t moved on from this particular monstrosity five years ago, it’s time.  Here’s a primer on fruity, flinty, and spicy white wines from the Alsace region, Italy, and elsewhere. 

2) Where the Lectures Weren’t Dry.  Washington Post. Living vicariously through Jason Wilson, who went to New Orleans’ Tales of the Cocktail.  Maybe it’s an event to plan for next year.

3) Kitchen Classics: The Best Old Cookbook is in the Eye of the Beholder. Chicago Tribune.  Cookbook dealers talk about which old, out of print versions are in-demand. 

There is a lively new trade in out-of-print cookbooks that is driven mostly by people with an attachment, often irrational and sentimental, to a particular book or recipe.

Cooks from different parts of the country have regional allegiances: Chicago cooks collect Antoinette Pope, who ran the Pope School of Fancy Cookery there from the 1930s to the 1960s. “I found a copy for one customer who had just buried her mother’s copy in the casket with her,” Slotnick said.

4) Talk to the Newsroom: Dining Editor Pete Wells. New York Times.  Readers ask interesting questions about the Times’ coverage, including:

This may be a harebrained question but here goes: What is the difference between a cook and a chef. I know a person who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and works at a very, very nice place in St. Michaels, Md., who insists he is a cook and not a chef. Then again, I know of some who I thought were cooks, say at a chain, who are called chef. Is it all nonsense or is there something behind the designations?

Also on New York websites: Serious Eats, Eater, and the Times all note Fabio’s departure from Maestro. Check out his response to Washingtonian’s Erin Zimmer on her Serious Eats post.

5) Open Arms New Orleans.  Washington Times.  A sizing up of the city’s restaurants post Katrina:

There were 809 restaurants in the Big Easy before Hurricane Katrina nearly killed New Orleans’ unique cuisine. Thanks to the pluck and spirit of the residents and culinary professionals, more than 700 restaurants are once more spreading a table.

 

Lavender Honey

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on July 22, 2007

honey.jpgI love honey.  I’ve been buying up samples from the Dupont Farmers Market, South Carolina markets near my parents, and elsewhere. I’ve been collecting honey the way some people collect bourbons.

This weekend, I visited friends in Fluvanna County, Virginia at their home on 100+ acres.  Vicki and Peter Generelly have a lovely garden and raise their own bees.  Last time we visited in early spring, the queen bee was dropped off in a little box, which the beekeeper lowered it into the hive and released a trap door to let her out.  Since then, they’ve been busy making delicious lavender flavored honey.

This morning, while eating breakfast with the doors of their kitchen open, seven or eight worker bees drifted in together.  “I have to feed the bees,” Vicki said. “They’re telling me they’re hungry.” Lo and behold, once she fed them, none followed us the rest of the afternoon.

I’m not the only one who loves honey. After feeding the bees, Vicki reported evidence that her local bears had been by to fuss with the hive in the night.

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Outside with Peter and Phin.

For more bee stories, check out this NPR clip on renegade beekeepers in New York City .

Friday Afternoon Treats

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on July 20, 2007

sorbet.jpgIf you walk past the corners of 14th and U on Fridays, you’ll see Micha Denmark’s staff drumming up business by asking passersby if they’d like a free sample of mango or mixed berry sorbet.  Perhaps its the presence of the Saturday farmers market that has paved the way for food carts on this corner, but Micha’s Sorbets represents the second wave of food stalls in DC ushered in by the less restrictive laws that have recently come into effect. 

Micha’s Sorbets is based in Baltimore and has been working to expand its presence in the DC market since 2004.  Currently, they’re sold at 14th and U Streets Fridays and Sundays,  Eastern Market Saturdays and Sundays, and the Department of Transportation farmers market Tuesdays and Thursdays.  “Micha has built up a large staff and is working to sell his sorbets in the area year round,” said employee Curtis Field.  After the fire at Eastern Market, Micha’s Sorbets opted to expand to other areas and farmers markets during the week.

Micha’s Sorbets makes over 70 different flavors, a handful of which are available at each stall. Today is banana, mango, peach, pineapple, lemon-lime, and strawberry.  When I ordered the lemon-lime, another staffer said, “Really? There’s real fruit in here. This is serious.”  The sorbet was a little greener than I would expect, but there was plenty of mouth puckering pulp and zest.  Sorbets are $3, $5, and $10, the largest of which would feed a family dessert.

Though a stall is different from a cart, the idea of mobile eats finally staking ground on busy corners is exciting. Maybe it’ll be awhile (or never) before we’d see a mobile charcuterie cart or a korean bbq stand, but perhaps its realistic to hope for a veggie kati roll stand or a pop-up Red Rocks pizza by the slice in the near future. . . .

Station 9 in 20009

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on July 18, 2007

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Aymeric Saha and Samir Tazi, owners of Silver Spring’s Gallery Restaurant and Lounge, have renovated and reinvented the space that used to house Cada Vez into Station 9, a reference to the building’s prior life as Post Office Station 9 (20009).  The interior, designed by David Rosenberg, showcases giant chandeliers reminiscent of paper lanterns as the dining room’s focal points. 

The executive chef and menu consultant is none other than Chef T– Terrell Danley, of U Street’s Creme Cafe.  Dishes include a pulled pork and fried plantain appetizer on frise with orange, a two-way lamb entree with couscous, squash, and tomatoes, and whole crispy bass with roasted corn, tomatoes and a mustard sauce.  There’s also the requisite big burger and skinny fries as well as a selection of salads.

The downstairs seats 140, while the upstairs is sectioned into rooms within the room by angular couches and lounge seating.  Later in the season, upstairs at Station 9 will feature midweek jazz.

Station 9. 1438 U Street.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on July 18, 2007

bluefish.jpg1) Why the Dark Glasses?  Washington Post. The folks behind Budweiser are taking a stab at beer pairing in creating a malty brew they claim goes well with mid-Atlantic fare such as shrimp and crabs.

2) Summer Express: 101 Summer Meals Ready in Ten Minutes or Less.   New York Times.  Ideas for when it’s too hot to cook.

3) When Getting the Blues is a Good Thing.  Boston Globe.  It’s amazing how David Pasternack’s praise of bluefish a couple of years ago– what used to be maligned as an oily, trashy fish– has gradually improved its image nationwide.

4) Fame on the Farm.  Chicago Tribune.  Farmers are the new chefs.  When is the reality show?

5) Cooking up a Lesson.  Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Though John Kessler’s favorite chef cookbook of this season is Geoffrey Zakarian’s Town/Country: 150 Recipes for Life Around the Table, he praises Richard’s Happy in the Kitchen as the worthy successor to Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook:

Michel Richard, chef at Citronelle restaurant in Washington, shares his puckish sensibility in “Happy in the Kitchen.” The French-born Richard has one of the most original and certainly the most playful of approaches among America’s chefs today.

Richard often starts by thinking “What if,” and then manipulating foodstuffs to achieve his effect. What if you diced carrots to bits and turned them into a risotto? What if you scrambled pureed scallops like eggs? What if you tried to perfect the chicken nugget?

What fun it was to cook from this book. I learned to make moist, full-of-flavor tuna burgers by allowing the diced tuna to marinate with herbs and a hearty splash of olive oil before cooking. I also discovered that tucking a few potato chips under the bun adds a joyful, transformative crunch.

The scrambled scallops were interesting mush that I won’t prepare again, but I’m happy to have tried the recipe once. (By the way, Richard suggests serving the scallops inside a halved eggshell onto which you have glued deep-fried loops of zitoni pasta to serve as handles. He knows that, in part, readers want to marvel at the efforts of an ambitious restaurant kitchen.)

A Tuesday Night Food Cart

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on July 18, 2007

This would be a good idea for nights in Dupont when the Livelystones play, the 20 person brass band that’s more New Orleans than DC.  For now, it’s Baha Fresh or Cosi or Levantes on the patio for music and a drink or a bite.

The band that’s affiliated with the United House of Prayer at 6th and M used to play on the Starbucks side, but the city asked that they move next to Buffalo Billards, where around 100 people watched and danced tonight.  Usually, the band starts on Tuesdays around 8, but tonight was 9:30.  And, by the video, it seems they play weekends too.  It’s a fun way to spend an hour on a lovely summer night.

TVs at the Bar

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on July 17, 2007

tv1.jpgLast night, I ducked in for a Ligurian salad at Coppi’s, one of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood.  I like the tiled floors that look like the ’40s, the dark lighting accented by fire from the pizza oven, the black and white cycling pix, and the playlist that ranges from Amy Winehouse to Bud Powell’s jazz.  

Though Coppi’s aesthetic wouldn’t be anything special in another city, in DC, its a space with character that leans original since it wasn’t conceived by a design team, it’s a tiny spot that’s not undergoing an expansion to become vast and cavernous, and it doesn’t have a TV.

It hadn’t hit me how many casual restaurants have a TV going in Washington until I went to a lunch at Vapiano and one of the owners mentioned that, although they were reluctant, they planned on installing a TV at the bar in the Virginia outpost.   I wish they weren’t!  But apparently, I’m in the minority.

Today’s blog post in the Atlanta Journal Constitution food section encourages discussion on the trend in their city. “Sports bars and strip joints aside, I can’t stand it when the TV or a cell phone distracts from the meal. It’s insulting to everyone — diners and the staff at the restaurant alike.”  While I’m not insulted by them, I just find them insipid.  And maybe I’m especially aware of their presence in bars because I so often eat there rather than the dining room.

TVs in bars other than sport- and strip-: Easy to ignore? A welcome distraction? Essential? Or as annoying as a rousing round of Happy Birthday at TGIFriday?