Counter Intelligence

Favorite Infusions?

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 31, 2007

vodkainfusion2006_11.jpgAl Fedorowsky, bar manager for the soon-to-open Restaurant K by Alison Swope, has been doing some mad science of his own in whipping up infused spirits behind the bar.  “Pear vodka was really popular about six months ago,” said Fedorowsky, who predicts that his cucumber gin and an apple rum will be the crowd pleasers in the opening weeks.

He also has an orange brandy, orange, pear, and lavender vodkas as well as a black peppercorn and tobasco version for Bloody Marys, vanilla bourbon, and a super smooth grapefruit tequila that goes down too easy–“It’s a Friday night drink,” he said.

I liked the spirits alone, barely chilled since they’re so fragrant and heady closer to room temperature. But for those who prefer mixed drinks, it looks like there will be some terrific choices.  How ’bout an after dinner Brunella, made with orange brandy and vanilla bourbon? 

After the tasting, I wondered how infusions differ among mixmasters around town.  Whose elixirs do you crave and what makes their infusions so special?


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 29, 2007

figsbyglennkoenig.jpg1) A Shrine for Zealots and Converts.  New York Times.  Have you been to Franny’s?  You should go.  This is one of dozens of articles in the Times since it opened in 2004.  Franny’s is owned by Andrew Feinberg, who used to cure meats in his bathtub.  He’s hardcore.

So was Franny’s essentially a glorified pizza parlor? For those outside Brooklyn, did it really warrant a water crossing?

To the first question the answer is no; to the second, an emphatic yes.

Other restaurants have honorable pies, admirable lettuces or noteworthy salumi. But take it from a cranky Franny’s doubter, now a besotted Franny’s believer: not many do all three with as much joy and distinction as Franny’s.

Besides which, Franny’s does more. In June it reinstated pasta dishes on its menu. A few had been there in the beginning but were quickly jettisoned, because Franny’s chef, Andrew Feinberg, didn’t think he’d mastered them.

Now his kitchen has new equipment, while he has new confidence. So it’s pasta once again, and the rigatoncini with peppery pork sausage and sweet cipollini onions will have you hoping it’s pasta forever.

Also in the Times that’s terrific: Edible mags and the clam nostalgia piece.

2) She Wanted to Do It Right, and Now She Cans. Washington Post.  Another facinating Chef on Call from David Hagedorn.  I really liked the premise–I’ve been wanting to jar stuff, but have been worried about poisoning someone, too. And I hadn’t realized Greenwood used Toigo’s tomatoes year round:

When she opened the Comet Ping-Pong pizzeria last year, she had Mark Toigo send a couple thousand pounds of plum tomatoes from his Pennsylvania farm to a food processing plant in Punxsutawney, Pa., where a year’s worth of sauce was prepared and bottled per Greenwood’s specifications. She will repeat the order this year.

3) Fresh Figs, to Round Out the Season.  Los Angeles Times.  I’m fixated on fresh figs this week and wrote about them for tomorrow’s Express.

4) Plan Advances to Allow Dogs at Chicago Outdoor Cafes.  Chicago Tribune.  On September 5th, Chicagoans will find out whether they’ll be able to bring their pups to any and all outdoor cafes.  Let’s hope none turn into doggie fight club.

5) He’s Passing On the Art of Pickling.  Boston Globe. A Rhode Island resident practices the southern art of pickling that he’d learned from his grandmother.

(pic by Glenn Koenig. LA Times)

One More Guilty Pleasure Summer Read. . . .

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 25, 2007

amateur.jpgThanks to Adam Roberts for pointing out the Charlie Rose foodie interview archive, which includes Ruth Reichl, Mario Batali, and Julia Child, among others. 

And, speaking of Adam Roberts, congrats to him for this week’s book release, The Amateur Gourmet.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 22, 2007

latimes.jpg1) Be a Bold Mix Master. Washington Post.  Jason Wilson writes about making his own ingredients, inspired by Todd Thrasher, “mad scientist” at Eve and PX.

2) With Ale, Tamales With a Chanterelle Twist.  New York Times.  An interesting pairing to complement its Belgian beers of summer piece.

3) Sausage Company Does it With Smoke and Mixtures. Boston Globe.  Charcuterie mania gears up as Bostonians whet their appetite for all kinds of sausages.

4) Finding Foie Gras.  Chicago Tribune. Despite the ban, foie gras hasn’t disappeared from Chicago’s culinary landscape, it’s just under the radar.

5) Ice to a T.  Los Angeles Times. Paletas are the preferred popsicles of the LA landscape this time of year.

(pix by Carlos Chavez of the LA Times)

Catching up, mid-road trip

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 17, 2007

56681150_2945d7c0d5.jpgSorry for the radio silence.  I’m on an ambitious road trip with spotty access to wi-fi.  In the meantime, I’ve been eating plenty of just-caught shrimp, fried pickles, scuppernongs, and scamp.

While on the road, I learned of a few interesting food-related dates to put on the calendar.  If you’re thinking about taking a foodie weekend this fall, signup has begun for Southern Foodways’ State of Southern Food weekend, from October 25th through 28th.  Held in the funky little town of Oxford, Mississippi, this year’s attendees and speakers include  Alice Waters, Molly O’Neill, the Lee Brothers, Frank Stitt of Alabama’ Highlands Bar and Grill, Donald Link of New Orleans’ Cochon and Herbisant, and Sean Brock of McCrady’s. 

You may also catch a glimpse of Ann Cashion, John Haliman, former wine columnist of the Washington Post (whose stateside residence is now in Oxford), and Gillian Clark of Colorado Kitchen. 

This October will mark the release of Gillian Clark’s memoir, Out of the Frying Pan, that I’m really looking forward to reading.  She’s also hosting the “Adventures at the Stove” weekend from September 28th through 30th in Minihaha Springs, West Virginia, where participants can:

Be a line cook for Saturday night service with Grapeseed’s Jeff Heinemann. Put up Eggs Benedict for 40 with Chef Gillian Clark.  Relax at the campfire while sampling the world’s finest scotch.

Check in with Chef Clark at to sign up.


Speaking of southern, the prolific Washington-based John Martin Taylor, who you may know from his cookbook, Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking or his charcuterie article in the Washington Post– has a terrific blog that’s a new go-to for me.


(fried dill pickles in the pic)

Tomato Time

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 14, 2007

tomato.jpgNo matter where you are this week, you’re likely presented with every color, form, size, and rendition of tomatoes this time of year. suggests a hybrid versus heirloom taste test wherever you may be. E-Gulleteer Jason Perlow offers up a tomato- cast, as well as two different mouth watering posts on the BLT: this one and the P (pastrami) LT. San Francisco’s Cooking with Amy also has a terrific spin on the BLT with the Cobb Salad sandwich.

If sandwiches are too pedestrian for you, there’s the wacky tomato art from the Tomato Fest in Nashville this past weekend or Jaleo’s annual La Tomatina. The cocktails sound especially good. And in case you missed it, the lovely Ximena offered several renditions of gazpacho on her blog.

Comfort Foods for Havin’ the Blues or Seeing Red

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 10, 2007

cookies.jpgI hate to admit it, since the summer bounty of fruits and veggies is upon us, but August is my least favorite month.  Every year, I wish I picked Vermont over Washington, where signs of fall encroach on late August nights.  Dry leaves and northern pine smell like September.

It’s also my birthday month. Though I tried to go all German and celebrate it (when I lived in Berlin, it was customary for German friends to throw their own birthday parties and pick up the tab), I’m never really that into it.

I’m not the only one with some gripes against August. On both Rockwell and Serious Eats, comfort food for feelin’ bad is a topic with legs this week.  Some feel-better foods commenters mentioned include:

Lots and lots of cheese at Dino accompanied by whatever Chris pours me.

Cocktail, gnocchi, burger and something decadent by Ann for dessert at the bar at Palena.

Pho, pho, and more pho. Better than chicken soup.

I just had a terrible day and made myself a crappy version of poutine

If it is hot out, red flavored jello with canned mandarin orange segments suspended in it.

And my favorite, “red meat and brown whiskey.”

When it’s 102 outside, your subway line is down, and it’s a less than perfect day, what’s your comfort food? 


Cocktail Update

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 10, 2007

ab.jpgHeat is making us thirsty.  Some news from around the web as to what people are drinkin’:

Time Out New York informs neophytes that no, Absinthe is not supposed to be lit on fire.  Speaking of,  I still haven’t found Lucid in Washington.  When will it arrive? Lucid couldn’t say when when I contacted their headquarters.

Former DCist and current Washingtonian, Erin Zimmer asks what’s up with the Miller chelada adds wallpapering our fair city over on Serious Eats.


In Case You Missed It. . . .

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 8, 2007

Eve Zibart, restaurant critic for the Washington Post, Michael Birchenall, editor and publisher of Foodservice Monthly, and I responded to questions about dining in DC on the Kojo Nnamdi show.  Thanks for listening!


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 8, 2007

cheese.jpg1) Mangosteens Arrive, But be Prepared to Pay.  New York Times.  First, Indian mangoes, now mangosteens. Willing to pay $45 a pound? You too can try this formerly forbidden fruit.  Read up on the southeast Asian treat that’s due to arrive at a Dean and Deluca near you. 

2) Whisked Away. Chicago Tribune.  While the article doesn’t tell us anything new– people take vacations in August–it does offer creative choices for food travel.  Vietnam for a week of cooking classes?  Five day boot camp at CIA?  A week long food tour in Tuscany?  Fun alternatives to 101 degree Washington in August.

3) Cheesemakers in Paradise. Boston Globe.  Summer camp for cheeseheads (or turophiles, as informs us) reveals more people are making– and eating–cheese:

 Per Capita US Cheese Consumption Nears 32 Pounds After Big 06 Jump,” trumpets the front page of the July 27 issue of the weekly Cheese Reporter. Consumer interest in artisan cheese is on the rise. And more people are making cheese. “Half of the [345] cheesemakers in my book didn’t exist in 2000,” says Jeffrey Roberts, author of “The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese.

4) New Wine Bars in Old Town Settings.  Los Angeles Times. Much like Black Market Bistro, landmark buildings become restaurants and winebars.  If you’re craving cheese from that last article, there’s also the piece on updating the grilled cheese.

5) When Packet Cooking Goes Over Big Time. Washington Post. David Hagedorn writes on foil-wrapped cooking, one of my favorite ways to cook in summer– with recipes.  (The Lee Bros. call them hobo packs, but that’s kind of a weird term, isn’t it?)