Counter Intelligence

This Year’s Favorite New Year’s Eve Drink

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 31, 2007

budweiser_large.jpgI wish this were the year I’m inspired by Jason Wilson’s suggestions in his Washington Post column to make this a cocktail and dinner party New Year’s Eve. Or that I booked a barstool to savor Todd Thrasher’s favorite midnight cocktail–the Pisco Sour. Or that I would have the sense to stop by Dino for the Rob’s Downfall– a bourbon fizz made by Chris Cunningham. 

But tonight is a longer, meandering night, which means endurance pacing rather than single, high-octane cocktails. My drinks may perhaps start with a girly prosecco or a Kir Royale, interspersed with some champagne at midnight, but I’m fairly sure based on my itinerary, I’ll be drinking the King of Beers in a bottle: a guilty pleasure.

What are your drinks of choice for the night? Let me live vicariously through you. 


Post Holiday

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 26, 2007

Today I’m headed to Charleston, South Carolina for a progressive dinner while Charlie lounges at my parents in Pawley’s.  After the food fest from the past few days, I should ride my bike there.

Hope you had a terrific holiday.


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 26, 2007

elegant-martini.gif1) Party for 12, In Need of Ripert. Washington Post. I’m not sure about you, but I’d be freaking out to have Michelin three-star chef Eric Ripert and wine guru Terry Theise advise me for my dinner party.  Read on for a suburban couple’s lesson from the masters on how to entertain for New Years’ Eve. Another facinating piece by David Hagedorn.

2) 2007: Let’s Eat, Not Fuss. New York Times. According to Bruni, 2007 marked the year of Brooklynizing Manhattan, where humble, simple restaurants corralled some of the city’s most talented chefs. Among them are El Quinto Pino, Market Table, Shorty’s .32, Hill Country, and Momofuku SSam Bar. “It wasn’t that new restaurants cared less about their food, often fastidiously sourced and nimbly cooked,” he wrote.  “They just cared less about presenting it in traditional trappings.”

3)A One-Pot Wonder. San Francisco Chronicle.  One pot French cooking for post-holidays, with the longest ingredient list ever.

4) 20 Raves. Boston Globe. Boston Globe staffers muse on favorites of the year in a meandering five-click list, with everything from dishes at restaurants with eggs and uni, to Trader Joe’s sunflower seed butter, to bacon salt, to Scotch.

5) Martini Mavens Go Totally Stir Crazy.  Los Angeles Times. Does shaking “bruise the gin”?  Check out this article in praise of stirrers.  For more meat, there’s also The Ten Best Recipes of 2007 .

Wine Bar Updates

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 22, 2007

wineflight.jpgIt appears that one way Veritas is reigning in the noise is by embracing a reservations policy. Last week, I went by to learn that half the seats in the tiny space were reserved, and no, there wasn’t a list or a host taking names for openings.  Next thing you know, Veritas is going to become the Milk and Honey of wine bars, complete with a secret number that’s only for those in the know.

Vinoteca started brunch service this week, with omelets for as little as $3 with additions such as feta and bleu cheese, crimini mushrooms, ham and bacon. Other brunch items include French toast ($3), eggs Florentine ($6), bagels, applewood smoked bacon,  grits, and toast as sides. Currently, the kitchen is manned by a sous chef from La Paradou. In the new year, two others will join him: one from Brasserie Beck, the other from Citronelle. 

In keeping with their old world/new world theme on the menu, the guys at Vinoteca are putting the finishing touches on their upstairs lounge which has a Eastern European old world vibe.  Once it opens, the dinner menu will be limited to downstairs, but upstairs may in fact be a dessert bar. 

Apparently, it’s better than any burger in New York.

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 21, 2007

burger1.jpgEric Ripert has been touting his D.C. burger at Westend up north, according to New York Magazine’s Grub Street. “‘It’s the best hamburger anywhere– better than anywhere in New York,’ the fish master says. ”

Why is it so great?  “It’s a 70-30 lean-fat mixture of Pineland Farms sirloin, which is grilled over very high heat and then served on a challah bun.”  Have you had it? Would you agree? 

PSA: Hangover Prevention

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 20, 2007

The next day or so marks the holiday eating and drinking marathon, which, for some, means hangovers. Obviously, the best prevention is restraint, but sometimes that doesn’t work out.  For me, the key to preventing my brain from banging against my skull combined with general illin’ feeling means a little prevention before hitting the sack.  On my short list:

1) Drink three glasses of water with three Advil.

2) Emergen-C

3) Soak up the night’s booze with a couple of slices of plain bread. Leftover Chinese food, Christmas cookies, not so great.

4) Eat two tablespoons of honey.  I swear, it’s an elixir.

Last year, I wrote about what to do the next day, but this year I’d like to be more proactive. Have any other suggestions? 

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 19, 2007

eggnog.jpg1) Four Star Feasts: From Thomas Keller to Douglas Keane, Bay Area Chefs Share Their Holiday Home Menus.  San Francisco Chronicle.  Pumpkin and apple soup, pork and beans, pork shoulder, cajun shrimp– these are some of the more rustic items these fancy chefs serve at home for the holidays.

2) Eggnog as You’ve Never Had It. Los Angeles Times.  I’m not sure if I’m into coconut with my eggnog, but any twist on the store bought monstrosity is fine by me.

YOU’RE handed a glass of a familiar holiday drink, and a deliciously unfamiliar aroma greets you: toasted coconut with hints of Tahitian vanilla, cinnamon and Jamaican allspice. You raise the glass to your lips and are surprised by the satiny texture — nearly thick enough for a spoon but soufflé-like. The flavor is rich and harmonious — warm, caramel notes of dark Jamaican rum playfully flirting with the slight sweetness of coconut milk.

3) Tradition with a Twist. Chicago Tribune. I’m obsessed with Feast of the Seven Fishes (and will have an article in tomorrow’s Express on it). My family does it. I used to think it was really weird.  Why in God’s name would I want fried smelt and pickled herring, in addition to five other fish in one meal?  Now I love, love, love it.

4) Take a Bite of the Past. Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Check out these crazy cakes from yesteryear. “These aren’t recipes; these are projects!”

5) Just the Stuff for Roasts and Reveling.  Washington Post. What to drink with what you eat this holiday, from Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg.

Menu Planning. . .

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 18, 2007

pork.jpgMy mother asked me last week if I’d like to cook Christmas dinner when I visit my parents in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina.  I’m excited, but usually I like a little more time to ruminate as far as the menu is concerned. My father won’t have that.  He has called me three times in twenty four hours to ask about it.  I’m having a momentary freakout about it because he’s making me feel under the gun.

That said, my family is pretty traditional.  Holiday lamb curry is not going to make the menu. So, I’m settling on a crown rib roast. And now, I need help.

Have any ideas for knockout apps or sides?  I am looking up recipes and jogging my memory of stuff I’ve made before (braised fennel, au gratin potatoes), but I’d like to do something different.

For appetizers, I’m thinking of a mushroom crostini like the mushroom side at Creme– (with truffle oil and parmesan) and some other nibble, like those marcona almonds.

For first course, I’m thinking sunchoke soup with lemon and saffron; grilled pear and goat or gorgonzola cheese over endive and frisee or mesclun; the glazed root veggies in this ensemble; bourbon sweet potatoes, and the roast from the same LA Times article. What else? Is this boring? What should I substitute? You all are better cooks that I am. 

What’s on your holiday menu?

Pining for Pastrami

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 14, 2007

pastrami.jpgFor those of us who can’t make a nostalgic visit to New York for the reopening of the 2nd Avenue Deli’s Monday in Murray Hill, we can celebrate in spirit with detour to EatBar, where Nathan Anda makes a rendition that might rival the classics in the delis of our northern neighbor. Cured for ten days and hickory smoked, Anda’s pastrami is served over a bed of whipped potatoes with a red wine gastrique.

(For more eye candy on the 2nd Avenue reopening, check out this video.)

EatBar at Tallula. 2761 Washington Boulevard. Arlington. 703-778-9951

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 12, 2007

1) Valentino’s Pizzeria and Restaurant. The Washington Post. The Post has again unveiled Valentino’s to anyone who didn’t know about it’s fantasticness. They’ve also written about it here  and here. Not to mention, it’s a Candy Pitch favorite.

2) Broaden a Cook’s Culinary Horizons in Eleven Ways. New York Times. The Times showcases books for people who actually want to learn to become better cooks, as opposed to eat the work of others, watch it on TV, or look at the pictures in books like this.

pizza-capricciosa.jpg3) Pizza Face-Off is a Family Holiday Festivity. Boston Globe. Sounds like my kind of family. With recipes here and here.

4) So, You Want to be a Sommelier?  Los Angeles Times. And you thought law school was difficult.

5) Rebel Rum! Small Batch Producers Reclaim this Spirit’s American Roots. Chicago Tribune. Rum is the new Bourbon.