Counter Intelligence

Locanda’s Liliana

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on February 27, 2008


                                                                    72-year old Liliana Dumas gets to Locanda weekday mornings to make pasta the way her grandmother did when she was growing up in Italy, mixing two parts semolina, two parts “regular flour” and five to seven eggs– minus a dash of white wine. Dumas smelled the dough before she turned on the pasta maker. “My grandmother made it by hand. But when I’m making 300 ravioli, it’s too much.”

The dough was for a simple ravioli –stuffed with homemade ricotta, roasted garlic, and a little parmesan. “You want the dough to be smooth as a woman’s skin. If the dough is too thick, it interferes with what’s inside,” she said. “And if it’s at all sticky, it’s no good.”  Dumas folded and flattened, folded and flattened, until the sheets were as beautiful as the one pictured.

In addition to making Locanda’s pasta, Dumas also bakes the restaurant’s pastries. And, like her grandmother, “I don’t use any butter.”  Lately she’s been busy making hazelnut cake and chocolate peppermint mousse cake, but she’s looking forward to spring, when it’s time for tarts and gelato.   liliana2.jpg

Locanda. 633 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. 202-547-0002


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on February 27, 2008

beans.jpg 1) Just Too Much. Washington Post. Sietsema writes on the ubiquity of marathon tasting menus and considers whether it’s too indulgent for diners and chefs. Also in the Post: Erin Zimmer’s engaging Cooking for One.

2) Central makes the cut in Frank Bruni’s Coast to Coast, Restaurants that Count. New York Times.

3) Din and Bear It? LA Times. It seems that restaurant dining rooms are getting louder and there’s “no hush on the horizon.”

4) Beans Make the Perfect Housewarming Gift. San Francisco Chronicle. Oh, really?

5) Dot.Com Cooking. Chicago Tribune. Cooks reach across the digital realm to find and share new dishes.

The Bigger Cheesetique

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on February 24, 2008

logo.gifBeer lovers, rejoice. New digs aren’t all that’s new at Del Ray’s Cheesetique.  “I just didn’t have the space to do beer justice,” said Cheeselady Jill Erber of the original space.  Now customers will find craft-brewed pilsners, lambics, IPAs, and stouts, among others.

And while many of her customers associate wine with cheese, she suggests beer pairings. “Cheese has alot of fat, God bless it,” she said, “And fat coats the palate. You want something acidic to cut through it. Beer not only has the acid, it has effervescence that’s a natural palate cleanser.”

Starting next week, guests can pair beer with cheeses at the back bar, which will also feature charcuterie, fruits, fondue of the day, quiche, and other cheese-themed entrees.  Vinophiles can still order wine with their cheeses, but don’t be surprised if the server suggests a spicy Gewurztraminer rather than a glass of big red.

(And what’s going on in the old space?  Let’s Meat On the Avenue, an all-natural butcher: the first of two slated for the same street.)

Cheesetique. 2411 Mt. Vernon Ave. Del Ray.

CityPaper Meat-Up

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on February 21, 2008

Head over to Young and Hungry for a story on Restaurant Eve’s Dan Fisher. . . .

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on February 20, 2008

milk.jpg1) Zakuski: Small Bites for All. Los Angeles Times. Russian tapas reinvent small plates in LA.

2) O Izakaya Riffs on Tradition with Winning Food. San Francisco Chronicle. Speaking of small plates, izakayas have firmly taken root in San Francisco.  Will DC get a real one in ’08?

3) The Dairies are Half Pint, but the Flavor Isn’t. New York Times. Artisanal dairy is so this minute. 

4) With Sips and Nibbles, Cork is Pulling in Crowds. Washington Post. On 14th street, Sietsema says Cork is it.

5) And on the Seventh Day, They Ate Well. Boston Globe. Humble meats for Sunday eats.

Hook’d on Grappa

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on February 19, 2008

Saturday night, I was with some friends in town for Coffee Fest who work for La Cimbali. They had just returned from a business trip in Italy, where they had acquired a craving for grappa. By chance, we ended up at Hook, where Francesco Amodeo has built an interesting list. I wasn’t particularly fond of it until his grappa lesson.

I was sort of teased into it.  I started a dessert course with a glass of Brachetto d’Acqui, which Amodeo said was his mother’s favorite. I figured we were splitting the whoopie pie tic tac toe and I wanted something sort of girly. Suddenly I felt like I just ordered the chicken over foie gras.

After thoroughly enjoying mom wine, I decided to step up.  Honey and citrus was what I was looking for as flavor notes outside of the burning booziness I associate with grappa. It was as bracing as I expected, yet it was also a treat. Should you decide to try for yourself, ask for Francesco first. He’ll guide you through their eight to ten selections.  He’s as much a delight as the drink.hook.jpg

Special Delivery

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on February 15, 2008

In Politics of the Plate, addresses the FDA’s changing of the definition of milk to include the “ultrafiltered” stuff. What does this mean to consumers?

As the name implies, ultrafiltered milk has been passed through a fine membrane that retains large molecules such as protein and fat, while allowing smaller molecules like water, lactose, and little things called vitamins and minerals to wash away.

Supporting local farmers allows for consumers to use their dollars to voice protest.  Can’t make it to the market?  Milk delivery is alive and well in the area according to the Washington PostHedgebrook Farms delivers weekly to northern Virginia while South Mountain Creamery delivers to Virginia, Maryland, and parts of the District. 


Meet your Match

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on February 14, 2008

Though I’m an advocate of asking your server or your favorite wine shop owner about wine pairings, here are some fun sites if you’re on your own and need a little help. 

James Beard award winner Nat MacLean, author of Red, White, and Drunk all Over features a wine matcher on her website. Just choose your food: beef, for example. Then, your entree: carpaccio.  The matcher lists four or five reds and whites that would pair nicely with your selection. also has a search online and for your phone, as noted in this month’s Bon Appetit. Food categories are more general than Nat’s, yet the wines are more label-specific. 

Lambrusco Love

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on February 13, 2008

pouring.jpgTomorrow may be a holiday for red wine, but I tend to be finicky about them. For one, I’m not so into its stamp: purple lips and teeth. And super tannic wine is like drinking sand.

In Lettie Teague’s “Educating Peter” series in which she turns the film critic from The Rolling Stone into an “intelligent [wine] taster” Peter Travers calls these super big tannic numbers “nightmare reds.”

For starters this Valentines Day I’ll be having lambrusco– a departure from big reds, but surprisingly serious.  Like prosecco, it has been undergoing a makeover from its dubious ’70s reputation.  Joe Bastianich has had something to do with it; you’ll find it in just about every Batali place in New York. On his Italian Wine Merchant site, lambrusco is described as “no longer all about the untamed bubblies, however….the sparklers have gotten pretty serious in the last several years, joined by some still renditions that are standing out. . . .” And on The Pour last year, Eric Asimov notes that it’s “No Joke”:

Good lambrusco is indeed fizzy, but it’s dry, lively and somewhat earthy as well. And after a really long day, when the perfect dinner was chunks of cured Italian sausages, peppery and fragrant, with perhaps a green salad and maybe some cheese tortellini with olive oil, nothing could have gone with it better than chilled lambrusco.

Haven’t heard of it?  No wonder. It’s been tucked in with other articles in the local mainstream press, so you’d have to go out of your way to read more about it.

Thankfully, PS7’s serves lambrusco at the bar.  I have my own for tomorrow.  Outside of home, where else can we find lambrusco?

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on February 13, 2008

coffee.jpg1) Moonshine Makeover. Atlanta Journal Constitution. Popularity of homemade hooch has been on the rise for the past few years. I had some moonshine cherries that tasted like lighter fluid over the holidays. Here’s to making it more palatable. 

2) Preserving a Tradition. Boston Globe. Pickling veggies and curing meat is so everywhere.

3) Anne Willan’s Moveable Feast Hits LA. LA Times. La Varenne’s Anne Willan pays a visit to LA with an eye on making it her permanent home.

4) Dark May Be King, But Milk Chocolate Makes a Move. New York Times. Chloe Doutre-Roussel, author of The Chocolate Connoisseur, navigates readers through what makes for delicious chocolate.

“Percentages tell us nothing, but nothing, about the taste or the quality of chocolate,” Ms. Doutre-Roussel said. The percentage tells how much of the bar is cacao solids — the pure, unsweetened content of the cacao pod. But the flavor and quality are determined by many other factors: how the pods are fermented, how long they are roasted, how the cacao is ground. Two milk chocolates, both with 45 percent cacao solids, might have utterly different levels of sugar and dairy content. “Seventy percent of bad cacao is still 70 percent,” Ms. Doutre-Roussel said. “It is all about the producer and the recipe, especially when you are talking about milk chocolate.”

5) The Latte With the Best Squiggle Wins. Washington Post. Baristas and coffeegeeks descend on D.C. this weekend for Coffee Fest, where lay folks can check out the barista competition Saturday and Sunday at noon at the Convention Center.