Counter Intelligence

Halloween Eats

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

In honor of Day of the Dead, be sure to stop by Oyamel before Sunday for the tribute to Diana Kennedy, legendary author of The Art of Mexican Cooking, Essential Cuisines of Mexico and From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients.

Dishes include Arroz a la Tumbada– a Veracruz dish of rice with seafood echoing the paella of Spain and Ostiones Pimentados from Tamulipas– peppered oysters in the style of Tabasco.  The oysters are especially good.


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on October 29, 2008

1) Win or Lose, We’ll Feel Better When We Eat. Washington Post.  Jane Black pushes for election night food traditions: “Warm butternut squash salsa with roasted pumpkin seeds. Homemade wine-pepper biscuits served with a spread of ricotta, spiced apricots and Marcona almonds or with a selection of cheeses. Pulled chipotle pork with avocado cream that can be piled on soft rolls and topped with a dollop of avocado, or layered in a casserole dish for another spicy dip. (Find these recipes here). . . . Call it my vote for change.”

2) Calories Do Count. New York Times. That’s why I eat whatever I want in small portions instead of yogurt and pretzels. Not sure that’s working out, but whatever. Lots of others are taking the Melissa Clark approach. “If reduced portion sizes remain popular with customers, it could help restaurant operators who have been bearing big jumps in food costs this year.”

3) Day of the Dead is a High Spirited Affair. LA Times. I’m in love with the menu for this day. Tamales are too hard for me to make. Masa is serious business.

4) The Thighs Have It. San Francisco Chronicle. In case you didn’t know, bone-in less valued parts and cuts are cheaper.

5) This Economical Cut of Meat Belies Unfortunate Name. Atlanta Journal Constitution. Craving Boston butts.

Staff Meal at CityZen

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

Since reading this New Yorker piece in which Alinea’s Grant Achatz addresses how he comes up with new dishes, I’ve been curious as to how other chefs do the same.This past summer, I interviewed chef Eric Ziebold of CityZen about his creative process. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.


Last year, chef Eric Ziebold of CityZen was concerned the restaurant menu was not attentive enough to vegetarians, so he requested his staff forego meat for the entire month of July. “We practiced it to learn what we needed to do to make vegetarians feel satiated here,” he says.


In addition to giving up meat, each chef took turns making a vegetarian staff meal throughout the month. After polling his cooks– who were more hungry than usual without their regular sources of protein–on what was most flavorful and satisfying, Ziebold recast vegetarian menu options the following fall, based on their creations.


This wasn’t the only case for which staff helped shape the CityZen menu. “Whether it’s an ingredient or an idea, much of our creativity comes through staff meals,” Ziebold says.


Ziebold relayed another incident in which he challenged his staff to a soup contest.”You can tell a lot about people by the way they make soup,” he says. “The way they season, develop flavor, and maintain consistency, for example.” 


One cook’s submission was the clear winner. “Cara Luff, who works the fish station, is from New Mexico,” he says. “She wanted to make her favorite chili. Now her chili is good. If it’s not Luff’s chili, I won’t eat it,” says Ziebold. 


“But I said, ‘No chili. It’s not a soup.'” Luff ended up making a chili soup with a pepper consomme, bean puree, New Mexico green chili sausage, and a chili powder mousse. “And that was the staff meal to die for,” says Ziebold.”(Inox sommelier and former New Heights chef) John Wabeck said he wants to get her chili consumee through an IV in his arm.” 


Jammin’ Beignets at PS7’s

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

Beignets are a New Orleans’ guilty pleasure, where they’re often enjoyed with cafe au lait at New Orleans’ Cafe du Monde. According to the site:

Beignets were brought to New Orleans by the Acadians. These were fried fritters, sometimes filled with fruit. Today, the beignet is a square piece of dough covered with sugar, served in orders of three.

This taste of New Orleans is now available at PS7’s, served with a trio of jams: pumpkin butter, cranberry orange and apricot ginger.  I’m craving an order this morning.

(photo from

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest by melissamccart on October 22, 2008

1)Kentucky Bloodlines in a New Soy Sauce. New York Times. Artisanal gone awry? Small batch soy sauce.

2) A Chef’s Plot Thickens. Washington Post. Chef Armstrong and wife Meshelle go green, starting in the garden.

3) Homemade Pasta, A Perfect Cooking Projects for Kids. LA Times. Kids and kids at heart should play with food.

4) Top Chef Comes to Cal Cafeteria. San Francisco Chronicle. No more mystery meat.

5) If They Build It, Will We Come? Boston Globe. “A lot of these projects have been on the drawing board and owners can’t get out of them,” says Charlie Perkins, owner of the Boston Restaurant Group, a real estate firm that brokers restaurant deals. “There are as many new openings today as there were two years ago. Going forward about 18 months, it’s looking a little thinner.”

One Hundred Southern Foods

Posted in South by melissamccart on October 20, 2008

I’m totally absorbed by Garden and Gun’s southern food issue,  featuring articles by Mississippi’s John T. Edge, among others. Divided by sweets, breads, sides, meats or seafood, this interactive map gives the rundown of what’s good where, be it pig ear salad  or boiled peanut cotton candy.

Check out the story 100 Foods You Absolutely, Positively Must Try Before You Die.

Dino Developments

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

Dino has some specials to boost sagging spirits in a flagging economy.

Now through December 4th, the restaurant offers three courses for $35.08: Restaurant Week prices through the fall.

For grazers– as of next week, Sundays through Fridays from 5:30 to 7:00pm, Dino will offer Italian style happy hour. In addition to 25% discount on wine and spirits, they’ll have a selection of complimentary pates and sausages, crostini, salumi and cheeses at the bar.

While you’re at it, meet Dino’s new mixologist, Scott Palmer, who’s whipped up his own fall cocktails:  an Autumnal Dark and Stormy, a Spiced Chianti Fizz, and a Sicilian Manhattan, made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Amaro Averna, Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth, spice bitters, and
Willett-bourbon soaked cherries.

Fall Fest Weekend

Posted in 1. by melissamccart on October 17, 2008

It’s a great weekend to stay in town with so many fun food and drink fests on the roster.

Starting today from 7am to 2pm and tomorrow from 10am to 4pm, feast on meatloaf sliders, bob for apples, and listen to the blues at A Fall Harvest County Fair at Jackson’s Roasting and Carving Co.

On Saturday, feast on brats and Guinness cupcakes as you sample beers at Rustico’s Oktoberfest, featuring 20 beers on tap– including Brooklyn, Left Hand, Hofbrau, and Victory Festbier– and live music throughout the day. Things get going at noon.

For a more rustic dining experience, check out the Claude Moore Farm at Turkey Run in McLean. I hear the chicken rotisserie’d over an open fire, homemade cornbread and cider are worth the trip.

And for the dog-obsessed, there’s Barktoberfest at Capitol Hill’s Art and Soul. $35 a person, $5 for dogs buys treats for both as well as beer flights for owners.

Questions, Questions. . . .

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

Have a question about local oysters or today’s Washington Post food section? Head over to Free Range for the chat until 2.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

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

1) Virginia on the Half Shell. Washington Post. Chesapeake oysters are back. Just order the brand name: Rappahannocks, Stingray, Olde Salt. 

2) With Goat, a Rancher Breaks Away From the Herd. New York Times. As we’ve been saying, goat is good.

3) Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide No. 7: A Departure from the Past. LA Times.  Parker’s style:”A wine with “gobs of fruit,” to use one of his favorite expressions, will have little to offer the intellect — it aims for more immediate pleasures. In reading some of the profiles here, it’s clear that Parker can recognize restraint in a wine, but rarely rewards it. He’s just not the contemplative sort. He prefers to be bowled over.”

For those who don’t want a palate clubbing, Parker brings in five other authors for different regions.

4) From Vegetarian to Double Beef, One Simple Method Produces Countless Chilis. San Francisco Chronicle.  Learn how to make flawless versions of man food.

5) Plonkapalooza. Boston Globe. Supa-cheap wines for the season.

(Ryan Croxton of Rappahannock Oysters)