Counter Intelligence

Fancy Popcorn

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on January 31, 2008

popcorn.jpgI’m a little skeptical about truffle flavors for Super Bowl grazing, though I loved today’s email suggestion from Food and Wine for truffle popcorn, despite that it won’t be among my game day eats.

As easy as it is to make flavored popcorn at home, sometimes it’s more fun to find it at the bar of a neighborhood place.  I’m a fan of the salty and sweet caramel corn at PS7’s and spicy version at Rasika. And I’ve yet to sample the truffle parmesan popcorn at Westend or EatBar

What is your favorite gussied up popcorn? I’m surprised if there isn’t a bacon version somewhere.


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on January 30, 2008

pickles.jpg1) Taking Worry Off the Plate. New York Times. Yet another reason to eat more sardines, herring, clams, and other shellfish: it’s better for you. For now, anyway. Speaking of funky food, Harold McGee addresses double dipping today. As it turns out, Seinfeld was right.

2) The LA Times showcases the most interesting food section this week, with an article on meat class by the world’s most renowned butcher, sourdough made easy, and oysters, beyond raw and fried.

3) Our Roast Beef and Clams Rule.  Boston Globe.  In a Food Superbowl between Boston and New York, Boston wins.  True or False? 

4) Duck, Deconstructed. Chicago Tribune.  Washington’s Bonnie Benwick makes duck accessible to home cooks.

5) Winter Pickles are Cooler Than A Cucumber. San Francisco Chronicle. Pickled veggies are hot in San Francisco. And Michel Richard’s Citronelle has recently opened.

Who’s Makin’ Whoopie?

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on January 29, 2008


During a recent foodie road trip around Nelson County, Virginia — not far from Polyface Farm in Omnivore’s Dilemma — I stumbled upon The Cheese Shop, a quirky Amish store which, aside from the obvious, carries dried goods, obscure sodas, and desserts. I ended up buying a whoopie pie because it reminded me of my dad, and I hadn’t had one for like 20 years.

My one dollar whoopie pie looked sad wrapped in saran wrap, yet it was actually pretty delicious. Smeared with an obscene layer of frosting, these desserts are hard eat gracefully without cream oozing out onto a cheek or a shoe. Better off plating it and cutting it up, though it seems sacrilige, like eating an ice cream sandwich with a fork and knife.

I’m not the only one nostalgic for whoopie pies. Kate Heddings of Food and Wine’s Mouthing Off especially liked those made by Heather Chittum at Hook, who creates a whimsical take on Tic Tac Toe, for which the board is the chocolate sauce on the plate, the mini pies are the O’s and the X’s are vanilla shortbread. Heddings describes a good whoopie pie as “a cross between a Devil Dog and a Suzy Q.”

She doesn’t have to head to Washington for whoopie pie. New Yorkers have their own version as Time Out notes in its “100 Best Things We Ate and Drank This Year” with Baked’s whoopie pie topping the list for favorite desserts.

Looking for another local version to go? Head over to my favorite bakery, Baked and Wired. And try ordering one with a straight face.

Update: And what’s today’s Epicurious recipe of the day?  Whoopie pies.

Taqueria Distrito Federal, Take Two

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on January 27, 2008

tdf.gifLuis Marroquin of Taqueria Distrito Federal will open his second shop this summer in Petworth at 9th and Kennedy.  Featuring the same menu as his Columbia Heights location, the second shop will have a lunch counter with diner stools as well as an outdoor patio. 

In the meantime, don’t overlook the terrific breakfast burritos stuffed with scrambled eggs, chorizo, tomatoes, beans, and jalepeno pepper, for example, or the weekend Menudo soup.  Though it’s rumored as a hangover cure, think twice if you’re a finicky eater. His version is the real deal,  made with tripe and cow’s feet. 

Delivery is available within a two mile radius.

I need brunch rehab.

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on January 26, 2008

waffle.jpgLast year, I took a page from Jeffrey Steingarten’s Man Who Ate Everything and subjected myself to foods I didn’t like in an effort to get over my hang ups.  Though I’ve moved past distain for stout beers and chocolate, I’m still disturbed by chicken fried steaks and sea urchin. In both cases, it’s a texture thing.

On the other hand, I’ve developed a full-blown new one: I hate brunch.

Breakfast I love. It’s invigorating. It’s a.m. food that’s actually eaten in the morning. At home obviously you don’t have to dress for breakfast. It can be very intimate. And breakfast out is satisfying in a different way. You can fuel up on coffee, read the paper, greet other regulars, and you’re on your way to face the day.

Particularly if drinks are involved, brunch is like eating a nap. Waffles, eggs benedict, and booze at two in the afternoon? You might as well stay in bed, take a Percocet, and write off the rest of Sunday.


Twofer Day: Soup + Pie

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on January 23, 2008

soup.jpgLoulies reminds us it’s National Soup Swap Day, the perfect time of year to make a kale and andouille chowder that’s among my favorites. 

Looking for other recipes? DC blog The Gracious Bowl has an extensive list if you’re looking for soups to swap. And the collection from Austin’s Soup Peddler is terrific, too. Recipes are arranged by month; January is Mexican hominy Posole Sonora, Iraqi Shorbat Rumman with pomegranate, Florida fish chowder, and black bean.

Strange enough, today is also National Pie Day, where Ed Levine on Serious Eats lists favorite pies around the country.  Breadline is cited as the home of Washington’s most pielicious pies, but I think that may be outdated.  I’m partial to those from Baked and Wired or the farmer’s market take-home strawberry rhubarb pies.

Have a favorite on this soup and pie holiday?  Chime in in the comments.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on January 23, 2008

tequila.jpg1) Will Pigs Feet Fly?  New York Times. Hakata Tonton glorifies trotters. They’re fantastic. I need to make a pilgrimage.

2) With the Right Link, A Natural Stuffer is Born. Washington Post.  Charcuterie moves from restaurants to home kitchens as people like Michelle Harriger learn to make it from a pro.

3) The New Yogurt Culture. San Francisco Chronicle. “Yogurt sales have increased 33.4 percent in the past year,” according to Supermarket Guru. With the popularity of yogurt comes new shops like Fraiche, an all natural, homemade yogurt shop that’s more than just desserts.

4) Tequila Bars Take Flight.  Los Angeles Times. The last time I went to a tequila bar was in Madison, Wisconsin several years ago. How is this new?  Isn’t the rise of tequila a story from 2003?

5) Brit Invasion!  Chicago Tribune. “Cooks from the UK are the hottest thing since the Beatles, luv.”

Where’s the Love for M.E. Swing’s Coffee?

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on January 18, 2008

swing.jpgAs much as I love Murky, I’m not a monogamist when it comes to coffee.  And while I like Illy at home well enough, my most recent affair has been with M.E. Swing.  According to the owners, their beans had been the White House favorites during several administrations.

As of late, where’s the love for this local indie coffee place? Despite that it has been around for 40 years longer than Ben’s Chili Bowl, it’s not written up the Washington Post City Guide. The last decent Post reference seems to be in 2003. I can’t find it in a Washingtonian  M.E. Swing Co. search. The Alexandria Times recently profiled the place and Gridskipper  (which regrettably misses Murky) sized it up, too:

Even in their pointy jester-like shoes, Europeans from the World Bank headquarters eschew six closer coffee shops to trek to M.E. Swing Co. And for good reason: their coffee is the best in D.C.

Swing’s offers over 20 kinds of beans from all over the world. (Like any real coffee place, none of them include vanilla, hazelnut, or any other artificial flavor.) And they’re roasted daily in their Virginia location. For convenience sake, you can also pick up several selections at Whole Foods, Rodman’s, and where I’ve been getting it– that funky little Best DC Supermarket on U Street, where it’s brewed weekday mornings.

M.E. Swing Co. 612 D South Pickett Street. Alexandria. 703-370-5050.  Place orders ahead of time or make an appointment for a cupping at this location.

M.E. Swing Coffeehouse. 1702 G Street NW. 202-628-7601

What is Nepitella?

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on January 17, 2008

nepitella.jpgCheck it out on Gourmet’s redesigned site, where Fabio Trabocchi explains it in the first videos of the relaunch.  Jose Andres is also featured front and center in the Diary of a Foodie section. He’s on episode 2, Anatomy of a Meal

Barbera or Bud?

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on January 16, 2008

chronicle-illustration.jpgThis afternoon, the San Francisco Chronicle reports of polls splitting California Democrats between wine and cheese liberals for Obama and blue collar Bud drinkers for Hillary.  Is there a parallel trend in Washington or nationwide?  Or is the Left Coast in an alternate universe?

(SF Chronicle Illustration)