Counter Intelligence

Catching Up. . . .

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on June 30, 2008

Between interviewing for DC Chefs, guest blogging for The Food Section for two weeks, visiting family in Pawleys Island and at Atlantic Beach, celebrating a friend’s birthday (it’s today!), and hitting up the Rammys, it has been a busy couple of days.  Meatier posts as the week progresses.


BYO Sushi Concierge

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on June 26, 2008

I read the article on Trevor Corson’s Zen of Fish in the Washington Post awhile back, but wasn’t aware he’s hire. Courtesy of Food and Wine’s Mouthing Off:

Trevor is perhaps the country’s first sushi concierge ( For a reasonable fee, not only will he chat with the chef and find out what’s good, but he can also show you how to eat your nigiri properly (dipping it fish-first into the wasabi-free soy sauce then downing it in one bite), fill you in on the history and biology of the seafood, and make funny jokes about lobsters in their boudoirs.

And from his website:

Available in New York City and Washington D.C. Trevor charges a flat fee for his time. If you like, you can buy him dinner as well, but it’s not required and does not affect the rate. However, Trevor does require a certain level of quality in the chef and restaurant.

So who needs a sushi concierge and where would you take him?

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on June 25, 2008

1) Grill Desserts for Smoky, Carmelized Sophistication. LA Times. Grilled pound cake or Nutella sandwiches are the Marilyn of desserts: voluptuous temptations.

2) When “The Face” is Away. . . Washington Post.  “When the pickiest eater in the house is out of town, it can be fun to cook for one (and a half).”

3) Add a Splash of Ad-Lib. New York Times. Mark Bittman offers the basic formula for making terrific cocktails.

4) SF Firm Harvests Potential of Unused Land. San Francisco Chronicle. Don’t have time to grow your own? Have MyFarm do it for you in your backyard.

5) Dips and Chips Enter the 21st Century. Chicago Tribune.  I’m not sure if BLT dip, creamy basil onion, or roasted red pepper constitutes postmodern, but I’d try it.

(photo from today’s LA Times.)

Chefs on Bikes Profile: Heather Chittum of Hook

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on June 23, 2008

Local chefs and industry folks participating in Chefs on Bikes will roll through Washington on June 24th to raise money for Share Our Strength, “a national organization working to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry.” Hook Pastry Chef Heather Chittum will be a participant.

Q: What defines your work as we move into summer?  What are you most excited about or looking forward to?
A: As always my work is defined by the season and what local, fresh produce is available.  I am counting down the days until peaches are available.

Q: What kind of bike do you ride and what got you into riding motorcycles?
A: I actually ride a Vespa scooter, but for Chefs On Bikes I will be riding on the back of a Harley!

Q: When was your first Chefs on Bikes and what part of it holds the most appeal to you?A: This is my first Chefs on Bikes.  I suppose the greatest mystique will be seeing what everyone looks like when not in their chef whites, but in biker black….

Q:Is there anything else you’d like to share with customers or readers?  A: I just want to encourage people to get involved with Share Our Strength and their work to end childhood hunger.  I used to work for Share Our Strength so this organization and their mission hold a special place in my heart.

Want to support Heather’s efforts? Click here to contribute.

The Pop with Hop

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on June 20, 2008

Thanks to a bill sponsored by Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Sen. Patsy Ticer (D-Alexandria) that amended the ABC’s law on alcohol content in prepared foods, Rustico will sell its summer brew pops as of tomorrow, the first day of summer.

After last year’s brouhaha, the news is sweet relief. Priced at $5 a pop, the icy treats come in seven flavors: Framboise, Cherry Kriek, Peche, Cassis, Banana, Plum and Chocolate Stout. 


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on June 18, 2008

1) I Can’t Believe I Bought the Whole Thing. Washington Post. Where, how and why to buy local meat from the source.

2) Mexican Summer on a Stick. New York Times. Bittman’s take on paletas.

3) Still Buying Wine by the Bottle? Try the Case. LA Times.  Summer is for easy entertaining; be prepared. 

4) Celebrate the Solstice. San Francisco Chronicle. Provencal-style:

Thick lamb chops and spicy merguez sausages sizzle on the grill as they’re brushed with branches of wild rosemary dipped in olive oil. Long, brightly covered tables are set out on the grass terrace overlooking the fields. Pastis and rosé are poured liberally, and platters of tapenade toasts and bowls of olives are passed around the crowd.

5) Amazing Graze. Chicago Tribune. As is the case for DC restaurants and DelMarVa cheesemakers, Chicago chefs are wild about locally made goat cheese.


Chefs on Bikes Profile: Chris Cunningham of Dino

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on June 16, 2008

Local chefs and industry folks participating in Chefs on Bikes will roll through Washington on June 24th to raise money for Share Our Strength, “a national organization working to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry.” 

Over the next few days, I’ll feature Q & A’s with participants in this year’s event. First up,  Dino Mixologist, Chris Cunningham.

Q: What are some of your favorite drinks you’ve been making this summer?
A: I love gin and I can make those that say they hate it, love it.  Two of my favorite drinks are the korabella and the cucumber thyme refresher.  The korabella is a strawberry-basil gin fizz with a prosecco float. I muddle basil and strawberries then add gin, lemon sour and prosecco. And the cucumber thyme resfresher is gin with fresh lime juice, simple syrup, cucumber water and fresh thyme. It’s very aromatic.
Q: What moved you to decide to participate in Chefs on Bikes this year?
A: This will be my second Chefs on Bikes. Besides just being part of a great group of people riding for a cause, I’m really looking forward to having my girlfriend Cathy riding with me. That I love riding again and I really strongly believe in Share Our Strength has made me want to do it again.
Q: What’s the story behind your deciding to purchase a Triumph Tiger?
A: Through the years I have owned several sport bikes including Yamaha, Kawasaki and Honda. Fast forward to September 2007 and on a whim I felt like checking out some Triumph bikes after reading several motorcycle magazines. So I walked into the dealership and saw their bikes. When I saw the Tiger 1050, I knew I had to have it.  It was beautiful: fast, sleek, sexy…… An hour later I’m out the door with one.
Having not been on a bike in a year, I was a bit nervous. But this was a fast and nimble bike that responded to my every move. I have such a love affair with riding again and this bike in particular that I even got a Triumph tattoo on my arm a month later.
Q: What part of the ride are you most looking forward to?
A: The start is quite fun as you roll out in a massive group.  But the ride to Boyce through the Virginia  countryside is gorgeous.
Q. Anything else you’d like to share with customers or readers?
Just that I really love what I do and I love watching people enjoy my drinks and hospitality.  Pleasing others is very gratifying for me and I’m always looking to improve upon that.  If I can make someone’s day better, I have done my job.  
Want to support Chris’s efforts?  Click here to contribute.

Sweet Tea in DC

Posted in District of Columbia, South by melissamccart on June 16, 2008

Someone got me a subscription to Garden and Gun, which is kinda funny since I don’t have either.  The writing is good, though– like a less obscure Oxford American.  Last month, John Currence from City Grocery did a piece on barbecue. This month, Rick Bragg writes on Miami’s “killer cuban sandwiches.” The food writing is lively and original. Whomever signed me up knew I’d like something in it.

Anyway, this month also features “Sweet Tea: A Love Story” by Allison Glock– an interesting piece on the origins of the drink and its evangelists. 

My father, a doctor, explained to me that sweet tea is the devil’s brew, blood-sugar-wise. A glass of sweet tea is around 22 percent sugar, twice that of a can of cola. Add to that the ubiquitous free refills and you’re looking at enough sugar to choke Augustus Gloop.

What makes for perfect sweet tea?  Brew using a handful of bags of Lipton or Luzianne. Pour hot tea over a mound of sugar or simple syrup. Add water to dilute, stir and serve over ice.  People who use “fancy stuff”– raspberries, using a coffee maker to brew, baking soda–“These people are annoying.”

Even though it’s so simple, apparently every sweet tea is different.  Her favorite is at The Chintzy Rose in Knoxville, Tennessee. “Notes of orange and lemon intertwine with the sharpness of the tea, all of it buoyed by a mysterious sweetness unlike your basic simple syrup.”

That said, sounds like the further south you go, the better the sweet tea. That would mean DC is too far north.  Even West Virginia is dubious. “My mother’s sweet tea was not the best, perhaps this is because she was from West Virginia, a place where people drink sweet tea with some ambivalence.”

Do people drink sweet tea here– the drink equivalent of icing?  And would anyplace here convert a skeptic?


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on June 11, 2008

1) Putting Meat Back in its Place. New York Times. Just in case you’re on that bandwagon, Mark Bittman offers seven suggestions to make the transition easier.

2) Coffee Lovers Spill the Beans on their Favorite Small Batch Roasters. San Francisco Chronicle.  Reader response to an earlier coffee piece demonstrates the city’s passion for locally roasted small batch coffee.

3) Amore for Amari. Chicago Tribune. Jason Wilson writes on bitters and the lovely Fernet.

Dino in Cleveland Park has one of the largest assortments of amari in Washington, and head bartender Chris Cunningham uses them in several drinks. His latest is a version of a negroni in which he substitutes Fernet-Branca for Campari. “I want to push people outside their comfort zone,” Cunningham said.

4) Horchata: New Sweet Tea for the Multicultural South? Atlanta Journal Constitution.  From one of my favorite food writers, John T Edge.  Also check out the ode to the hot dog, though I’m skeptical that the right hot dog recipe can “bring a family closer together.” C’mon, now.

5) Migas. Boston Globe. Just the recipe, but something to make more often.


Out of Context: Restaurant Speak from the Past Week

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on June 10, 2008

“I’ve been in DC for 20 years. I want to be a Nationals fan, but you can only wear one hat in life.” –chef Ris Lacoste, Red Sox fan.

“I just want DC to have a hot dog cart that sells charcuterie on the side.” –chef Peter Smith, PS7’s.                                                         

“What did I drink? Do I need to get shots for this?”–Cork master drink maker, Tom Brown recalls his reaction after tasting booze he didn’t like.
“Pork is always good meal.”– chef Roberto Donna, Bebo Trattoria.