Counter Intelligence

A Conversation with Chef Tom Power and General Manager Ferhat Yalcin of Corduroy

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on August 28, 2008

Looking back at your opening days, how did it go?
The day we opened, I was in line for building inspection. We opened an hour and a half later. We wanted to keep things easy for the staff, so we kept the menu at the start.  It went smoothly.


You’ve brought a significant number of staff with you from the hotel.
People stay with me for a long time. It’s hard to find help. I make them happy. I find ways to make them stay. If I had to hire all new staff in the move, it would have taken me an extra month to open.
What about the chefs on your line? Ferhat mentioned your sous chef Paul as your right hand. . . .
Paul has been with me for eight years. And he makes the staff meal every day. He gets creative. The staff jokes when he feeds them chicken necks and backs and duck feet. He’s from Bangledesh. At one point, I had three Bengalis in the kitchen, all connected to Paul somehow. Now I can order everything in Bengali. I know all the food words.
Is there a secret to your soup? What else is a crowd pleaser at Corduroy?
I don’t know. I like to make soup. I’m good at it. People love it.
The poussin is the favorite. It’s brined, poached, then roasted. It’s very moist and tender. The waiters don’t necessarily push them. But one or two go out from the kitchen, people see and smell them, and they start ordering.
What’s one unusual ingredient in your kitchen right now?
One of the more unusual items in my kitchen is the mountain potato– it’s crunchy and slimy. Its texture adds a faux fatness to things.


How would you describe your cooking style?
Clean. Simple. I think what we do is very detail oriented. The technique has to be there. If one part is missing, there isn’t a lot to hide things.
Ferhat, now that you’ve settled into your new location, do you anticipate any changes?
We wanted our staff to get used to the place first. We’ll decide as we go, which is what we’ve done so far. For example, we have speakers in the ceiling. But just before opening, Tom decided he didn’t want to have music. He wanted people to focus on food or company or a visual. Music doesn’t block these things. By not having music, it just allows for another window to open.  
Your favorite dish?
His soups are killer. Whatever he’s making, it’s the best soup he’s making.  
What is it like to work for Chef Power?
He’s very calm and knows direction. He doesn’t use 30 ingredients in one sauce, but uses a few very well. His food speaks for itself.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest by melissamccart on August 27, 2008

1) The Other Extreme: Low-Alcohol Beer.  New York Times. Sessions beer, the ones that you can drink all day. Also, a great piece on the anti-restaurant.

2) Cookbook Politics. LA Times. Whether you’re Democrat or Republican, read how the other half eats.

3) Kitchen Essentials. San Francisco Chronicle. Digital scales, chinois strainers, a mortar and pestle. All things I don’t have but lust for.

4) Seeking the Best Box of Bi-Valves. Boston Globe.  Be jealous of New England seafood shacks.

5) When Life Gives You Produce, Make Pickles. Washington Post. Heather Shorter’s delicious renditions. I’ve been eating her vidalia onion relish straight from the jar.

Be sure to catch Heather and me on today’s Free Range on Food at 1:00.

Pickle It

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

Though pickles are nothing new, it seems like they’re on more plates as garnishes, condiments, and sides, as written about in Zagat and in tomorrow’s Washington Post. Some of my favorites have been the piccadilly at CommonWealth and pickled anything at Rustico.

Now’s the time for pickling to preserve summer’s bounty. Where have you found your favorite pickles?

Happy Friday

Posted in District of Columbia, South by melissamccart on August 22, 2008

I have some chefs’ interviews to transcribe for next week’s posts, but I’ve been too busy to edit, so I’m passing on a fun article from my favorite southern food magazine, Garden and Gun. Whomever sent this subscription, thank you. I’m in love with it, even though I have neither garden nor guns.

In the magazine, this month’s foodie features include articles on okra and West Virginia paw-paws (what is this?), how to cast a net for shrimping, Virginia’s Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout, Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, the best mail-order food in the South (The Pork is in the Mail), a photo piece on oyster roasts, and a musing on evil corn from Roy Blount, Jr.

Today’s post is for one of the weekend’s joys, the Bloody Mary. The Garden and Gun version is from Cochon, the place where Metrocurean and I had delicious rabbit livers, pig ears, and blueberry moonshine a few weeks ago.

Step by Step: The Cochon Bloody Mary

1.Clear your afternoon (ideally a Saturday) of any responsibilities

2.Gather the ingredients:
1 can V8 (46 oz.)
2 tbsp. finely ground pepper
2 tbsp. whole grain mustard
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1.5 oz. pork broth (pork broth!?)
1.5 oz. lime juice
2.5 oz. lemon juice
3.5 oz. hot sauce (preferably Crystal brand)
2 oz. green hot sauce
1.5 oz. red wine vinegar
1 oz. olive juice
1.5 oz. okra juice (the brine from a jar of pickled okra)
vodka of choice

3. Mix it up: Combine everything in a pitcher – except vodka – and stir. To serve: Fill glass with ice. Add about 2 ounces of vodka. Fill with Bloody Mary mixure. Sit, garnish, and serve. The mixture can be made ahead of time and kept in a sealed pitcher for up to a week.

Yield: ½ gallon (10 – 12 servings)

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

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

Tequila: Not So Simple After All.  Washington Post. Tequila doesn’t have to suck, as sugary mixtos so often do.

Restaurant Breakfasts Make a Comeback. LA Times. “Why? It’s a result of more relaxed working hours, unpredictable traffic and changing dining habits. Restaurants are noisier at night: If you want to spend time with a friend or colleague over a meal, breakfast has a certain novelty and convenience.”

The Keep Your Cool Summer Barbecue. San Francisco Chronicle. And more affirmation the banh mi is so hot right now. Also– 1001 Tastes Before you Die, or how to raise a child who doesn’t hate shellfish, cilantro, oxtail, and other foods that vastly improve one’s quality of life.

In Napa, Some Wineries Choose the Old Route. New York Times. Finally, some Napa wineries have decided that clubbing palates with booze and jam isn’t all that necessary.

One Person’s Pest is Another’s Delicacy. Atlanta Journal Constitution. Most ridiculous quote ever, ““It tasted like … death,” he said, wincing.”

Going Fishing in Annapolis

Posted in District of Columbia, Niche by melissamccart on August 17, 2008

I’ve been finding excuses to take Charlie to Quiet Waters dog beach once a week just so I can stop by Annapolis Seafood Market down the street.

For one, the quality of the seafood is terrific. Customers can choose from delicious looking whole snapper, rockfish, cod, flounder, and whatever else; it’s so fresh, the eyes are still clear– not easy to find in Washington. Use the tongs to transfer fish to a bin and bring it over to the fishmonger, who filets and weighs it. 

In the center of the store, ice filled bins showcase scallops, smelt, sardines, hundreds of little necks, head- on shrimp in three sizes, mussels, and razor clams. In cases across the way, it’s the point drill for lobsters, tuna steaks, salmon, crawfish, crab claws, crabs, crab cakes, soft shells, and whatever else. For more visuals, check out the overflowing bins stacked with unshucked corn, potatoes, piles of lemons and limes, or tomatoes.

The lunches alone are worth the trip. I adore the soft shell or crab cake BLT, or a cup of cream of crab with a drizzle of sherry.  I can’t remember the last time I had something with sherry in a to-go cup.

A fun picnic option would be the Steamer Suppers. An example: a pint of New England clam chowder, a pound of spicy shrimp, and two one-pound lobsters for $54, with four other options in the same price range. At the park, there’s a lovely overlook of the Chesapeake. Bring some linens, wine, a citronella candle, and it shapes up to become a fine spot when stuck in town for the weekend.

Is there a fish market with such a bounty in DC? Should the Annapolis field trip remain in my weekly repertoire? Cannon’s can be a pleasure, but has limited supply if you hit it at the wrong time. Whole Foods and Teeter’s fish counter is fine, but the shopping experience is sort of souless. And I haven’t been to Maine Avenue lately, but rarely hear resounding enthusiasm. I hope I’m wrong and I’m just missing something.

Why Wouldn’t You?

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest by melissamccart on August 16, 2008

Spend over $50 at any Sur La Table and get a new or renewal subscription to Gourmet. So now I have a new knife, a mandoline and a renewed subscription. Fun shopping day.

Time to play with sharp objects.

Where To Go, Baltimore?

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on August 15, 2008

Next week I have an interview up in Baltimore and nearly four hours in between an interview and the ball game. Where would you recommend I go shop for kitchen things, eat sweets, check out fishmongers, grab a drink, or otherwise graze during the afternoon?

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest by melissamccart on August 13, 2008

1) A Summer Sandwich Wins Our Hearts. Washington Post. Top tomato recipes for farmers’ market heirlooms.

2) Recall Leads Whole Foods to a Change. New York Times. How to prevent unapproved tainted beef in the hallowed halls of Whole Foods.

3) Bring the Bistro Experience Home with Savory Rillettes. LA Times. Rich, creamy, shredded meat in a jar.

4)The Bay Area’s Visionary Chefs. San Francisco Chronicle. A short list of people who have changed the way Californians (and we) eat.

5) What Could Be More American? Atlanta Journal Constitution. The PB&J wins the America prize.

DC Dining, California Style

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on August 11, 2008

San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer has an interesting post up on the difference between dining in New York and San Francisco today according to restaurateur Drew Nieporent.

No. 1. is that people go to restaurants in San Francisco for the food, not the mood,” Nieporent said.

2. San Francisco is less trendy. “They seem to be more interested in the rituals of dining rather than just going out to say they’ve gone to the latest place,” he says.

3.Diners and chefs are more respectful of and knowledgeable about the ingredients here.

4. People eat earlier in San Francisco; it’s difficult to get people to accept a reservation after 9 p.m.

5. With a larger population, the restaurants are able to do more “turns” in New York. In San Francisco he was able to turn tables maybe 1.5 times a night; in New York, where people eat later, he is often able to do three turns.

6.”There’s a very tight food community here where everyone plays their part,” he says. That level of comraderie doesn’t exist in other places, he says.

7. The economics are tougher in San Francisco. “The check averages are lower and the costs are greater,” he says. In Tribeca, his rent is half of what it was here, and wages are higher in San Francisco. Wine costs about the same on both coasts, but he couldn’t mark bottles up as much as in New York; being close to the Wine Country breeds expectations of lower prices.

Todd Kliman once observed that DC, like LA, is driving town. Might we have some Northern California in us too? Better yet, how is our city defining itself on its own?