Counter Intelligence

Where can I find it?

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 30, 2007

Have you tried Popocketcoffee.jpgcket Coffee? A friend brought them back from Italy and I had one yesterday. I don’t even care for chocolates that much. How many times have I written this on the blog? I think I’m lying to myself. But I must have more– espresso wrapped in milk or dark chocolate. It’s an addict’s fantasy. And, I love the wrapper and the name. 

Calling Josh Short: If our only local option is to order online, can you bring on your own rendition?  Now that’s a Buzz. . . .


Chix Magnet

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 28, 2007

chix20logo20jpg.jpgIf you’re looking for a terrific chicken soup and you’re in the neighborhood, take a detour to the recently opened Chix, an organic, environmentally conscious rotisserie chicken eat-in and take out place owned by Lukas Umana and Victoria Garcia.  Stock is made on site daily, the rice is organic, the chicken comes from their rotisserie, and it’s garnished with onions and cilantro.

Rotisserie chicken is availaible in three styles: Columbian, Peruvian, and Chix signature. The recipes were created by Garcia’s father, a chef originally from Spain, now based in Florida.  Vegetarian friendly sides include black beans with cumin and orange, roasted sweet potato, chickpea salad with onions and peppers, and their own version of mac and cheese, made with vermicelli noodles, skim milk, cheddar, and bread crumbs.  Sandwiches, wraps, and chop bowls are also available.

The organic chicken is bought from Freebird organic farmers of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  All paper products aside from forks and knives are made from recyclable and recycled materials.  And the pair boast their food is all natural and free of preservatives.  Upstairs offers free wi-fi and two flat screens.

Back to that soup. First time to the shop? Be sure to tell them. New customers receive a serving gratis.

Chix. 2019 11th Street NW. 202-234-chix.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 28, 2007

hot-toddy.jpg1) The New Rules of Cocktails. Los Angeles Times. In LA, the rules for enjoying a civilized cocktail in speakeasy style have migrated from across the pond and the East Coast.  What are they? No groups larger than four. No loud talking. No cell phones. No name-dropping. No gum. And gents, no hats or approaching the ladies.

2) Rewritten, in a Language of Its Own. New York Times. Former Maestro Chef, Fabio Tribocchi, earns three stars at New York’s Fiamma. Bruni calls one dish, “ridiculously enjoyable.” Also in the Times: Melissa Clark’s sugared bacon recipe and where to find 20th century ecstasy: a steakhouse.

3) Fear of Baking? Not to Worry. Boston Globe.  I’m the world’s worst baker, not to mention, hung up on leaving cookies and cakes lying around.  If I want the calories, I’ll drink booze and eat cheese.  That said, I do enjoy holiday cookies and breads.  Maybe I should try my hand at baking again? We’ll see if Kathleen King helps, though I won’t be starting with that cranberry loaf in the photo.

4) Soup up this Season. Chicago Tribune.  Soups that help you fight the flu. Also in the Trib: Holiday Cookie Contest Finalists.

5) Beer Nuts  Atlanta Journal Constitution. A restaurant sells Deus Les Brut de Flanders for $55 a bottle. Also, some Hot Drinks for a Cold Day.

Tomorrow’s NYT Food Section Sizes up Fabio

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 27, 2007

trabocchi_fabio23.jpgBe sure to log on to New York Times tomorrow morning for Frank Bruni’s review of Fabio Trabocchi and Fiamma. bets it’s going to be a two star review, though they acknowledge that Chef and Co. are naturally hoping for three or more, by Eater’s guess, “so they can clone it in other cities”:

First, there is no question that Hanson and, even more so, Trabocchi are in search of a three star verdict. It helps both men and the restaurant in myriad ways, most notably in that a tres gives them license to keep the price and service points where they are (high; quite choreographed). It also gives them license to clone the restaurant in other cities. Second, this is by far the closest call we’ve had to make in some time. X-factors here include Fiamma’s previous three star review; the Bruni’s love of Italian food; the fact that Steven Hanson generally gets what he wants; Jennifer Baum’s involvement, behind the curtain, as the restaurant is a client of Bullfrog and Baum.

Is one of Washington’s top chef only worth two stars in New York? Is it a Fiamma clone that’s due to arrive in Washington?  Tune in tomorrow for an answer to the first question, anyway.

Pumpernickels for Bagels?

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 25, 2007

Why hasn’t anyone weighed in on Pumpernickels Deli in upper Northwest?  Though the coffee is mediocre, the bagels are– dare I say it– good.  The interior is charmingly beat up, with well-worn hardwood floors, and hanging chalkboards overhead announcing sandwich specials named after music greats, famous Washingtonians, and other folks. The couple who owns it is originally from the Bronx.  And the staff they’ve hired is appropriately surly. To me, it feels like home.

I realize that Washingtonian said it’s “not worth the schmear,” but I do think it’s better than their Einstein (Einstein!?) and outta business Whatsa Bagel, both ranked ahead by tasters. 

Half the fun of bagels is the experience.  So if a place has some character, has been in business since ’91, and has a repeat clientele willing to stand in lines that snake around the front and out the door, I’ll trek uptown for bagels.

Or maybe I need to go back to New York to recalibrate my standards.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 21, 2007

dungpic.jpg1) After the Meal, a Credit Card Scanner is Served. New York Times. Portable credit card scanners are making an appearance, cutting time for the customer and allegedly protecting the customer against fraud.  But is it tacky?

2)  It’s Amateur Hour at Chez Michelin. Los Angeles Times. The LA Times slams the Michelin guide, noting that it’s dated and riddled with errors.

3) Remains of the Day.  Boston Globe. Creative leftover ideas are sometimes better than the first time around.

4) Southern Pie a Must for Thanksgiving Table. Atlanta Journal Constitution.  The journal celebrates pecan pie– far superior to apple and pumpkin.

5) A Huge Crab Catch off the Farallones is Offloaded in Monterey. San Francisco Chronicle.  Dungeness season started Thursday in Oregon and California.  Yet the fuel spill means that most crab in San Francisco is brought in from elsewhere. Restaurants and crab fans are concerned about health of crabs and consumers.

Tagged with:

What are you most excited to eat on Thanksgiving?

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 20, 2007

dudleys.jpgWhen I first went to Will’s sister’s cabin in Nelson County for Thanksgiving, I picked up a few new traditions: Bloody Marys and stone crab claws before the meal, Thanksgiving lunch instead of dinner.  But my favorite tradition of theirs is the oyster roast in the evening. 

Not being a Southerner, I had never heard of or been to an oyster roast; it was 2003, before the Lee Brothers wrote about it for the Times. Nooysters.jpgt to mention, I’d never had a roasted oyster: only raw or fried. 

I think the traditional way is to dig a pit, but a grill works just as well for roasting.  Once they were hot, Elis shucked and we ate them on Saltines with a dash of tobasco and a squeeze of lemon.  I love the ritual of it. And while it’s not as primal as slurping a raw oyster from its shell, a roasted one is its own kind of wonderful. I liked the tradition so much I told my family about it. Now they have their own.

The animals thought so too. Since the cabin is in the woods, once the oysters hit the grill, it was like being in Bambi, with all the eyes from raccoon and deer peeping out from between the trees.

I’m not the main cook this Thanksgiving, but I am making Melissa Clark’s brussel sprout salad with olive oil, lemon, cracked pepper, walnuts, and machengo cheese (I swear, I like it better than any I’ve had with bacon), as well as Michael Harr’s pumpkin soup— both of which are delicious.  However. Even though I’ve been on an oyster binge– I had them for lunch at Hank’s in Alexandria on Friday, the Oyster Riot this weekend, and last night at a Hank’s oyster dinner– I’m still most looking forward to the oyster roast.  It’s the season, after all.  And, I’m much more into shellfish than turkey.

Looking for where to order your own oysters for eating in the raw, roasted, in stews or stuffing?  Consult Rowan Jacobsen’s blog on suppliers as well as other information regarding The Geography of Oysters.

What are you most looking forward to eating on Thanksgiving?

David Byrne blogs about food.

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 16, 2007

David Byrne has a blog. I’m kind of excited about it.  Anyone living in New York awhile gets used to seeing famous people.  But a sighting of someone like David Byrne is just cool. I’d seen him several times; He is out and about, particularly at shows and, in this case on his bike.

On his blog, you’ll find the Red Hook fields food post among other things, if you’re not all Red Hook’d out from yesterday’s day dedicated to the neighborhood over on  In it, he talks a bit about the neighborhood’s changing character– also in this week’s New York Magazine:


Coppi’s Chef Carlos Amaya: Deconstructed Apple with Brown Sugar and Brandy Reduction

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 15, 2007

My neighbor Beth had a tasting menu date with a friend at Coppi’s recently and raved about it the next day.  Though she loved the entrees, I honed in on her epicture-233.jpgnthusiasm for dessert: what she described as a deconstructed apple, hollowed out and drizzled with caramelized something.  I had to have it.

Later in the week, I stopped by the restaurant–one of my favorites in the neighborhood –only to find that it’s never on the menu. “It’s a very easy date dessert,” he said. “And I only make it for special occasions.” 

The recipe:

One Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, or equally tart apple per guest-one banana per guest-brandy-brown sugar-mint-vanilla ice cream

Instructions: Hollow out each apple and dice. Slice as many bananas as there are apples. Sautee apples and bananas on medium heat.  Add a tablespoon of brown sugar and a splash of brandy per apple.  Mash as fruit softens.

When the apples are warmed and the sugar and brandy has carmelized, scoop fruit back into the apple, add a small scoop of ice cream over top, drizzle with carmelized reduction, and garnish with mint.

If you are a pastry moron like I am– using granulated sugar for frosting or baking angel food cakes that end up with huge craters–next time you have company for dinner, this is the dessert for you. The only awkward part of this is removing the apple, but if your paring knife is handy, it’s not a problem.  A couple of pieces of advice: squeeze lemon juice into the apple immediately after coring so it doesn’t brown.  Resist the temptation to mix the ice cream and the fruit before scooping it back into the apple, since the ice cream will bring the fruit to room temperature. And while prepping your dessert on the range is easier, it’ll be more like an apple pie if it’s baked in the oven instead. 

Tomorrow, Chef Amaya has offered to do the demo and to offer suggestions on variations. I’ll post the results. I’m fairly sure it will be less melty and more lovely than mine.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on November 14, 2007

mcd-coffee.jpg1) McDonald’s to Take On Seattle’s Best. Chicago Tribune. McDonald’s joins the specialty coffee market by rolling out lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas nationally.  The chain expects the new line will garner $125,000 per restaurant per year. 

“McDonald’s push into specialty coffees comes after the runaway success of its premium coffee introduced in early 2006. The richer tasting brew has boosted McDonald’s vital breakfast business, and it has won accolades from Consumer Reports for its taste and value.”

Just because Consumer Reports ranked it highly, will it matter? Locally,  the Post’s coffee taste test earlier this year ranked Starbuck’s last and that didn’t seem to break too many habits.  It’ll be interesting to see whether their coffee will lure people from the Starbucks crowd. I think the guilty pleasure of the fries are too much of a temptation. Want to try it out? Locally, it’s at Dulles. . . .

2) Locavore: Word of the Year. Boston Globe. The Oxford American Dictionary made the announcement earlier this week. Where’d it come from?

It certainly was a word we saw everywhere this year; it spread like wildfire. According to the Oxford University Press blog, the word was coined just two years ago, by these folks.

3) Smooth and Sophisticated Shades of Pale. Los Angeles Times. Nice try, but trying to make celeriac, cipollini onions, and parnips glam is like trying to make plumbing sexy.

4) Chefs’ High Hopes, Low Pay Leave Restaurants Starved for Help. San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, like Washington, suffers a shortage of chefs in the kitchen, though for a bigger city, the problem may be a bit worse.

5) This Holiday, Take Your Pick. Washington Post. The Post offers traditional recipes and updated twists on old favorites in today’s Thanksgiving edition.