Counter Intelligence

Counter Intelligence at Metrocurean

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on April 30, 2009

Thanks to Amanda McClements for inviting me to write a weekly feature that starts today.  Every week, I’ll be exploring ingredients, techniques and trends embraced by the city’s top chefs.  Today’s chef is Patrick Deiss, bread baker for 2941.


Good News for 14th and U

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on April 30, 2009

This coming Saturday will be the season’s opening for the farmer’s market at 14th and U. 

I’m especially excited about Stefano Frigerio’s The Copper Pot, where the former Maestro and Mio chef will be selling house made ravioli, pastas, sauces, jams and preserves. According to 14th and U Farmers Market coordinator, Robin Schuster:


Five on Food: Articles From the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on April 29, 2009

1) Stacked In Your Favor. Washington Post.  Joe Yonan’s cooking for one on sandwiches is downright inspiring (and makes me look forward to BLT season.) Also in today’s section, Jane Black’s piece on an impending tomato boycott.

2) For Precise Cooking, Get On the Kitchen Scale. LA Times.  Ruhlman writes a first person scale evangelism in the LA Times. Also see reviews of his new book in Washington Post, and New York Times, which, as Francis Lam observes on twitter, “it’s kind of hilarious that the Times review. .  .gives recipes in conventional measurements.”

3) Americans Love Their Coffee. And Brewers Want to Help Them Make It Right At Home. Chicago Tribune. Tips for the perfect cup.

4) Same Cow, No Matter How You Slice It. New York Times. “The three-quarter-inch-thick cut is an inexpensive, distant cousin of the New York strip. And it didn’t exist until the nation’s 800,000 cattle ranchers began a radical search for cuts of meat that consumers would buy besides steaks and ground beef.”

5) Relearning the Art of the Dinner Party. Boston Globe. I didn’t realize it had to be relearned.

Favorite Five: Barry Koslow of Tallula and EatBar

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on April 28, 2009

Tallula’s Barry Koslow knows local. The area native has earned accolades  at some of our most well-regarded restaurants:  most recently, as executive chef of Mendocino Grille and previously on the line at Circle Bistro, Citronelle, 2941 and Equinox. 

So it’s right in keeping that his favorite spring ingredients are locally raised: ramps— the sell-out item of the farmers markets, asparagus, morels, fava beans and spring lamb.

Stop by my favorite neighborhood restaurant not in my neighborhood, and you’ll find plenty on the menu showcasing Koslow’s favorite ingredients this season. Inspired by Koslow, Capital Spice, Missy Frederick and I cooked up delicious dinners this past weekend.

For the morels, fava beans and asparagus: I poured through a couple of my favorite cookbooks– Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers, Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef and an Alice Waters vegetable cookbook. I was thinking maybe a hash or a spring succotash, then decided to keep it simple; I love the clean flavor of favas and the grassiness of asparagus. Simple also meant subbing honey mushrooms for morels, since I’ve cooked with morels three times this season already. I haven’t found them fresh yet and dried they’re $22 bucks a pack at Whole Foods–  more expensive than the lamb.

I brought a big pot of salty water to a boil, blanched the shelled favas for two minutes, removed them with a slotted spoon and let them cool in an ice bath, after which the skins came off easily. Once I was finished, I did the same with asparagus tips.  As they cooled, I sauteed morels and diced shallots in a skillet with a dash of olive oil and a pat of butter, then combined asparagus, favas, morels, shallots in a bowl, using the butter/oil as the fat for the dressing, then squeezed a lemon over it and finished it off with salt, pepper and a bit of pecorino shavings.

For the ramps and the lamb: Lamb chops at Whole Foods looked terrific. So I bought a couple and pan-roasted them, as I’d learned from Colicchio’s Think Like A Chef (he demonstrates with sirloin). I seasoned chops with salt and pepper and heated a skillet using grapeseed oil (it has a higher smokepoint than olive oil). I placed them in a skillet, took it off the burner for a minute, reduced the heat on the stove, then browned both sides and the edges. After about six minutes, I added butter and thyme, basting as it continued to cook.  My chops were small, so ten minutes later, I removed them and let them rest for ten for rare to medium rare meat. I sliced, sprinkled with coarse sea salt and garnished with a very quick version of pickled ramps.

Check out Capital Spice and Missy’s Recipes for fancier renditions of dinner inspired by these ingredients.

(photo from

Five on Food: Articles From the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on April 22, 2009

1) Masala, Where You’d Least Expect It. Washington Post. Monica Bhide’s accessible Indian entertaining from her new cookbook. Congratulations, Monica!

2) Take One Recipe, Mince, Reduce, Serve. New York Times. More than 6,000 people follow Maureen Evans’ recipe tweets.

3) Tackling the Ethics of Eating. LA Times. “But these days, everything is coming up green and, forgive us, groovy.”

4) How to Dress A Cupcake. San Francisco Chronicle. Stuff like this makes me want to go on antidepressants, but some people like springtime pastel, tinsel, ruffles and polka dotted cupcakes. It’s a $20 kit so you can do it at home.

5) For These Chefs, It’s Camraderie, Not Competition. Boston Globe. Among Boston chefs, “You might think they’re fiercely competitive; in fact, they’re vying for a similar group of diners. But these guys (yes, it’s mostly men) actually bask in each other’s achievements. One success leads to more, they say.” Sounds familiar.

The Skinny

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

Once when I was at the gym with my father while on vacation, I asked him why he wasn’t doing more cardio rather than lifting weights. “Because I want to become the world’s strongest fat man,” he quipped. Unlike my father, I don’t really embrace oxymoron when it comes to diet.  So I was less than pleased awhile back when my nutritionist said, “Congratulations. You’re a fat, thin person.”  I needed to lose some weight, or at the very least convert some body fat to muscle. Or something like that.

A move, better diet, a couple years and a new doctor later, I’m allegedly less of a fat thin person, though who knows how long that will last. Maybe it has something to do with starting the day with an avocado, peanut butter and an apple. Or a poached egg on asparagus. I love a protein, greens and fat for breakfast and lunch. And so does Melissa Clark of The Skinny– though I’m pretty sure she’d cut the avocado.

This week’s Wall Street Journal explores a new book with the same name. In “Why That Big Meal You Just Ate Makes You Hungry,” the Journal examines the  new study by Dr. Louis Aronne of the Comprehensive Weight Loss Center at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center:

He makes the best case yet why what you eat and when you eat it can make a big difference in appetite, satiety and how much willpower it takes to cut down. “It’s true that a calorie is a calorie,” Dr. Aronne says. “But what that doesn’t take into account is how some calories affect what people eat later on.”

In the article’s sidebar, it reads, “Things that make it harder to stop eating: breads, sweets, pasta, wine or beer before dinner and artificial sweetners.”Why? “Because refined carbohydrates raise blood-sugar levels, setting up an insulin surge that drives blood sugar down again, causing rebound hunger,” Aronne says. Another study cited in the article says sugars and carbs can be “as addictive as tobacco and alcohol.”

For those who forget which food is what, menu recs are included. Breakfast? No muffins, bread, sweet cereals or juice.  The lunch he promotes includes  veggies, more veggies and protein. For a salad, “Using vinegar alone will cut your appetite and slow the rise in blood sugar.” Dinner is looking like close to zero carbs– like Dr. Atkins reincarnated. “Load up first on salads, clear soups, or high-protein appetizers like shrimp cocktail, then have a lean protein main course.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have had a soppressata snack and linguine vongole for dinner. Interested in more on The Skinny? Check it out here.

Pair Up

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

wine-1-3Enology’s Chris Cunningham picks his favorite wine and food pairings from the restaurant’s new spring menu:

“There are a couple of things that I love. The buffalo frog legs with  the Ash Hollow Gewurztraminer or the Clos La Chance Grenache. . . . Another is the scallop BLT with a St. Supery Dollarhide Sauvignon Blanc. And the third is the grilled lamb chop with zahtar rub and mint yogurt with Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel or the Steltzner Malbec.

Not only does the restaurant showcase a new spring menu. They’ll feature brunch starting this Saturday. Check out the menu here.

In the Kitchen with Zaytinya’s Mike Isabella

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

isabellaIt’s a Friday afternoon and chef Mike Isabella is in the kitchen of Zaytinya pointing out several EcoFriendly lamb he’ll use for the Greek Easter celebration. Through April 26th, Isabella uses two whole lamb a day. “I like all parts,” he says.  Shoulder, tenderloin, legs, cheek, brain and heart are all featured on his spring menu.

2008 was Zaytinya’s first year Greek Easter celebration. “Lamb for spring,” he says, “is a part of Greece’s history and religion.” Isabella, who comes from a Greek and Italian family, has travelled extensively among the islands to learn Greek cuisine. Before coming to Zaytinya,  he helmed at Atlanta’s popular Greek restaurant, Buckhead’s Kyma.

Isabella and New York’s Michael Psilakis– the first chef invited to cook for the Obamas in the White House– are among those whose creative takes on traditional cuisine is putting Greek fare on the map in this country.

“American’s understanding of Greek cuisine is so far behind because Greece had been so poor and isolated for so long. And their chefs couldnt afford to go train in France and Spain,” says Isabella. “It has taken Americans and others going to Greece to learn techniques. People such as Psalikis, a Greek chef who now has a Michelin Star.” After cooking at the White House, Psalikis brought his chefs to Zaytinya to pay Isabella a visit.  “He loves what we’re cooking here at Zaytinya.”

Back in the kitchen, Isabella talks about characteristics of Greek cuisine. “They love dill more than oregano,” he says. “Greek food also has more acid than other Mediterranean foods– all those lemon trees.” As he talks, he dices lamb and combines feta, dill and mint, with a little yogurt to bind; it’s the stuffing for a trio of squash blossoms, which he finishes off by quick frying.

He also notes the difference between olive oils. Spanish is “brassy”, Italian is  “a touch bitter,” while Greek is “fruity.” Greek olive oil brightens up the lamb heart tartare, which is ground in-house and served as a small plate with bulghur, julienned radishes and apricot.

But the crowd pleaser is the mini gyro. Drizzled with olive oil, the open gyrofaced sandwich is leg meat from a spit-roasted lamb, served with tzatziki, pickled onion, mint and chives. 

Isabella makes preparing lamb three ways seem easy. As he’s showing his dishes, five chefs prep for a busy Friday night, which, at Zaytinya, can mean a dining room filled with 750 people. There’s a reason why it’s so popular. Like Psalikis, Washingtonians enjoy what Isabella is cooking at Zaytinya.

Pair Up

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on April 10, 2009

To commemorate Greek Easter which starts next week, Zaytinya cocktail maven Rachel Sergi has concocted the delicious Kykeon’s Cousin, made with greek yogurt, lemon juice, sirop de gomme, egg white, Hangar One Buddha’s Hand vodka, rose wine and honey. She pairs it with Greek Easter’s lamb mialo– crispy squash blossoms filled with lamb brains, green olive and capers– a specialty on the  available on the holiday menu, beginning April 13th.

Sergi also suggests it with octopus Santorini from the regular menu, served with marinated onion, capers and a split pea puree.

Zaytinya’s Greek Easter celebration runs through April 26th, during which Chefs Jose Andres and Mike Isabella will showcase lamb from EcoFriendly Foods and wines from Dionysos Importers. Be sure to check out the April 22nd wine dinner here.

And if you’re in the neighborhood for lunch, the restaurant will offer Easter-style roasted lamb to go, served with pita, tzatziki and pickled onions ($7) from 12:30 to 2pm on the patio, weather permitting.

Have questions? Swing by Dupont’s FreshFarm Market this Sunday between 9 and 11am to see Chef Isabella for the morning’s Chef at Market.

Five on Food: Articles From the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on April 8, 2009

unstacked1) Building on Layers of Tradition. New York Times. New York is obsessed with the banh mi, right down to cries of protest when David Chang dropped his from the menu. DC has had its share of the sandwich in pockets around the city and the ‘burbs. Are we wedded to tradition or open to creativity?

2) Bring on the Feast. Washington Post. A month of prep for Greek Orthodox Easter.

3) Homemade Easter Candies. LA Times. Marshmallow, chocolate and mint.

4) Top 100. San Francisco Chronicle. The annual best restaurants edition.

5) Meat Me Halfway. Boston Globe. “But lately the food world has seen a slight retreat from this meaty fervor – a step back, a measured gaze, and a thought bubbling up: Perhaps less is, after all, more.”