Counter Intelligence

Favorite Five: Peter Smith of PS7’s

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on March 31, 2009

With baseball season around the corner, I’ve been craving ball park food: hot dogs, homemade condiments and supa-skinny shoestring fries.  During a recent PS7’s visit to see Gina Chersevani, I was reminded how terrific Peter Smith’s are at the bar.

Smith is such a fine cook though, I almost feel guilty going to PS7’s for a hot dog. So recently, I touched base with him to see what he’s up to and which spring ingredients are among his favorites. They are: pork (usually shoulder), yuzu lime, coriander, leeks and morels. Capital Spice, The Food Scribe and I were inspired to cook up a meal using them.

For the morels, leeks and pork: Ok, so I cheated first time around. I’ve been cooking with pork so much lately and craving greens, so I just used pork (pancetta) to render the fat. Once I had some in the pan, I added chopped leeks and sliced zucchini and sauteed.

I soaked morels in water for a half hour to bring them back to life. In the meantime, I followed Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita version of Spring Vegetable Lasagne.

1/2 lb lasagne noodles/olive oil/3 zucchini trimmed and sliced widthwise/1 T butter/2 Vidalia onions, sliced/1 leek, sliced/2 garlic cloves, chopped/1.5 c ricotta cheese/1 t lemon zest/1 t sliced chives/pinch of cayenne/2 c bechamel/1 lb fresh mozz/1/3 c fontina/1/3 c parm/1/3 c pecorino

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cook lasagna noodles in salty water. Brush zucchini with olive oil and roast for five minutes. Once they’re done, turn oven down to 350 degrees. Sautee garlic, onions and leeks for five minutes. (Here’s where I used bacon drippings.) In a separate pan, sautee morels in a T of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Combine ricotta, zest, chives and cayenne in a small bowl.

To assemble: spoon 1 and a third c bechamel over the bottom of a baking dish. Top with lasagne noodles.  Add 1/3 ricotta, 1/3 onion leeks and a third of zucchini.  Season and repeat with two more layers. Top with mozzarella, sprinkle with grated cheeses. Drizzle remaining bechamel over top (I go lean on the cheese and skip the last bechamel).  Bake for 45 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned. Let lasagne rest for 30 minutes before serving.

Stitt’s recipe is simple and delicious, especially this time of year.

For the coriander and yuzu lime: I found a yuzu at H Mart and didn’t have quite the runaround as Capital Spice. A sorbet could have been passable if it were lime alone. I thought yuzu was more lime-y and less floral. It’s not.

I make sorbets all the time. I started with a simple syrup with coriander, then strained out the coriander and let it cool.  I juiced two limes and a yuzu lime, heated juice in a pan, added some simple syrup, then let it cool in the fridge for eight hours. After, I hooked up my ice cream attachment to my mixer and let it whirl. Lime alone would have been alright. With yuzu it was startlingly bad, which I sort of knew going in.

That said, I basically used two of five ingredients well. So I ended up going to April Fulton’s house Friday night for another whirl. Check out The Food Scribe today for her terrific recipes.

Thanks again to Chef Smith for the inspiration and to April, Mike and Elizabeth for playing.


Saturday’s Virginia Beerfest

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on March 27, 2009

This post is primarily for Virginians, since any beerfest that’s renamed Gregfest means no driving should be involved: from 1 to 3 at Planet Wine, this Saturday. Gregfest is apparently very German, by the way:

Greg Engert, Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s (NRG) resident beer director, will lead guests through a German beer tasting that moves beyond the well-explored realm of Hefeweizens and Pilsners, and into the lesser known, but equally rich territories of smoky Rauchbiers and stout-like Schwarzbiers. Priced at $20 per person or $15 per person for Bottlerocket members, guests will taste their way through seven German brews on Saturday, March 28, 2009 from 1-3 pm at Planet Wine in Alexandria, VA.

Planet Wine is located at 2004 Mt. Vernon Ave. in Alexandria, VA. For reservations to Gregfest, please call 703-549-3444

Pair Up

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on March 27, 2009

inoxIn this week’s Best of DC, Tim Carman nominates INOX as the area’s best new restaurant. You’d think with two head chefs in the kitchen– Jon Mathieson and Jonathan Krinn– and another– John Wabeck– in the role of sommelier, there’d be some serious clashing. But if the food is any indication, it seems to be a harmonious marriage so far.

INOX is among my favorites already. I’ve already gone twice for lunch and once for dinner and they’ve only been open just over a month.  Rissa Pagsibigan in the front of the house is an additional delight.

A lunch and dinner fave for Carman is the butter poached lobster with red wine-braised short rib ravioli and melted leeks, which Wabeck paired with a 2006 Bourgone Blanc, Albert Grivault. As much as I loved it, the most memorable dish and pairing is pan seared red snapper with kohlrabi, winter radish, okra and ginger-lemongrass bouillon. I loved the crispy snapper skin and a super fragrant broth. Wabeck paired with an Italian Gewurztraminer, the 2007 Casata Monfort, which was less cloying and not as big as others I’ve had recently.

If INOX is so terrific after a month, I’m looking forward to visiting six months or a year from now.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on March 25, 2009

1) Kill That Bottle, Deliciously. Washington Post. Creative ways to use up leftover wine.

2) Dueling Dinners. New York Times. Two New York Times writers create dinner for six for under $50.

3) A Pizza Parlor in Your Kitchen. LA Times. Hit up Home Depot for supplies to make your oven hot enough for dough.

4) Manning the Stoves. San Francisco Chronicle. Napa guys cook together, for ten years running.

5) Kneading Bread. Chicago Tribune. There’s much to be written on the renaissance of bread. But this? “Remember how I said that this method is easy on the hands? As you stand before the counter, place one foot forward and the other back. While you’re kneading, rock gently and rhythmically back and forth between your front and back feet. Rotate and fold while you’re rocking back. Rock forward to press. By doing this, the energy required for kneading is provided by the mass of your body rather than the muscles of your hands and arms.” It’s like telling someone heel-toe and shift your weight and swing your arms walking.

Pair Up

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on March 20, 2009

Though I didn’t drink green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, I tried a delicious spring wine at Adour, poured by one of my favorite sommeliers, Ramon Narvaez. It’s a Verdejo from the Spanish region of Rueda- -the 2008 Valdelainos. This wine reminded our table of grass and passion fruit and certainly pairs well with spring. It’ s terrific alone for a first pour and complements the cucumber vinegar-marinated hamachi or the sunchoke soup on this month’s menu.  Valdelainos just arrived and is worth a detour to the St. Regis for a taste.

Five on Food: Articles From The Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on March 18, 2009

1)Roquefort Tax Hike Delayed. LA Times. There’s hope on the horizon.

2) Perfect Chicken, Flaws and All. Washington Post. A stand out among many many chicken articles as of late.

3) Whoopie! . . .Is Having its Moment. New York Times. And has been for awhile. . .

4) Hangover Cures from Around the World. Boston Globe. Among the most emailed today, naturally.

5) Down on the Fish Farm. Chicago Tribune. Best ‘green’ seafood choices.

Favorite Five: Gillian Clark of the General Store

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on March 17, 2009

Chef Gillian Clark of the recently opened General Store and the soon to open Avenue Oven has been a press darling as of late for her pioneering ways. Now that General Store has progressed from take-out to seated dining, Clark is focused on the fun part: cooking.  Her favorite five ingredients these days? Cheddar cheese, scallops, cornmeal, parsnips and buttermilk.

Missy Frederick of Washington Business Journal and I decided to see what we could whip up for a dinner made with Clark’s five favorites. Check out Missy’s Recipes for her meal. (more…)


Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on March 16, 2009

Nettles wrapped around servings of St. Pat impart a smoky artichoke flavor to this three-week aged whole milk cheese. Available at Cowgirl Creamery this week, St. Pat marks the coming of spring. Yet not all greens mark the coming of spring. Take ash cheeses. “Historically, ash was used as a preservative and would be used year-round,” says Jill Erber of Del Ray’s Cheesetique. “Now, it’s used for purely aesthetic reasons (it is flavorless). You can get some Humboldt Fog or Monocacy Ash, both of which have layers of ash inside and out.”

Speaking of cheese,  as Erber noted last month, days of Roquefort are waning. March 22nd marks the final day for Roquefort, according to New York cheese authorities at Murray’s Cheese Shop.  The shop is having an au revoir party this coming Sunday. From the release: “Sunday, March 22nd the cost of cheese goes from $8 to $30. Meaning, most people will stop importing it because there’s no way to sell it and turn a profit. True here at Murray’s as well.” Get it while you can.

Pair Up

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on March 13, 2009

This week starts Friday pair up in which the area’s bartenders, sommeliers, beer guys, and cocktail savants recommend their favorite food and drink pairings.

Jill Zimorski, Cafe Atlantico beverage director and sommelier kicks it off. She recommends:

 “. . . the grilled, marinated octopus appetizer with a glass of Graham Beck Brut Rose sparkling wine from South Africa. It has this earthiness that matches well with the char/grill flavor of the octopus but it’s still light and refreshing enough to not overpower it.”

“One of the weirder and more delicious pairings is our warm white chocolate mousse with muscovado struesel, coffee gelee and chocolate-hazelnut ice cream with a sipping tequila — anejo is best. Casa Noble Anejo is fantastic with it.It surprises people but the chocolate and hazelnut are great with the mellowness of the tequila. Sweet on sweet isn’t something everyone wants at the end of the meal.”

Have a favorite bartender? A dish that needs a pairing? Drop a line to

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on March 11, 2009

1) The Tough Go Chopping. Washington Post. From District Plates writer, Scott Reitz. Also in today’s Post: Jane Black goes to night school.

2) Missouri Chinese. New York Times. I’m not in love with the disparate unity that can result from the fusion of foods from two cultures, yet here and here, writers expose some compelling combinations.

3) Can Two People Eat on $67 a Week? LA Times. Yes, though it would be the passionless week of losing weight by default.

4) Top Honey Tastes Sweet as Paradise. San Francisco Chronicle. Honey is one of my favorite foods. I’ve been loving the Charleston honey I got from a bartender/beekeeper this past weekend.

5) A New Approach to Irish Food. Chicago Tribune. “‘Contemporary Irish is not that different [from] contemporary American,’ said Carlson, who is of Swedish descent. ‘We’re using traditional Irish ingredients and techniques in a new way.'”