Counter Intelligence

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest, New York City by melissamccart on November 12, 2008

1) Miracle Cure or Just Salt Water? New York Times. To brine or not to brine, according to McGee.

2) Steep, Pour, Sip, Repeat. Washington Post. Tea lovers ogle over oolong.

3) The Bagel: An LA Story. LA Times. I didn’t know people ate carbs in LA.

4) Squash is Posh. San Francisco Chronicle. What to do with all those gourds. One farmer I talked to was giving them away at a farmers market.

5) Cheapsteak. Boston Globe. In lean economic times, learn to love flap and brisket.


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest, New York City by melissamccart on November 5, 2008

1) Sweet Victory. Washington Post. Read on to find out about the best cupcake in town.

2) Eat and Tell. New York Times. Never mind egullet. Here’s the masses on Yelp.

3) The Return of the American Chestnut. LA Times. Nearly 100 years after trees were blighted, chestnuts are on the way back.

4) Sweet Desserts Relief for Diners. San Francisco Chronicle. Cake as the ultimate comfort food.

5) Kimchi Rising. The Boston Globe. Bap recipes and my favorite stinky condiment.

Shuck It

Posted in District of Columbia, New York City by melissamccart on September 22, 2008

From Alan Wong’s to Le Bernardin, to right here at Equinox and Vidalia, local Chesapeake oysters have sloughed off their dubious reputation and are making an appearance on fine dining menus because of guys like Travis and Ryan Croxton at Rapphannock River Oysters down in Topping, Virginia.

Several years ago, the cousins decided to revive their great grandfather’s business by working with scientists to grow their own local oysters in several locations around the bay. “The Chesapeake Bay has been a powerhouse for oysters,” says Ryan, “But its reputation had been compromised for a number of years because of environmentally damaging harvest methods and an emphasis on quanity over quality. We wanted to change the practices and the perception.” 

Today, they’re offering super briny Olde Salts, mild and buttery Rappahannocks, the moderately salty Stingrays, and York River oysters.

Thinking about having an oyster roast? In addition to finding them on menus around town, you can also order Rappahannocks direct. They’ll arrive within 24 hours of harvesting.

Eel Appeal

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest, New York City by melissamccart on July 27, 2008

When I lived in New York, I liked spending summers working at this Taiwanese cram school Monday to Thursdays. It paid well and was close to Shea. I was a Mets fan, so I went to a ton of weekday games. And since I couldn’t afford to travel, it was the next best thing. 

Once off the Roosevelt Avenue stop in Flushing, Queens, the walk to school was a sensory trip: crabs scurried against each other in bushels on morning sidewalks. The smell of Korean barbeque wafted from doors propped open on side streets. Vendors shouted in Mandarin, passing out leaflets about green cards and schools.  Hordes amassed around walk-up windows for bubble tea and red bean buns. The calm austerity of the Flushing Library juxtaposed the street’s mayhem.

Kids sent to this school by their parents were sweet and charming, despite that “summer camp” for 11-year olds meant studying 9th grade English.  Not to mention, some of them could barely speak English, and would sit next to someone who’d allegedly translate my lesson for the whole class. 

Some of the younger ones didn’t even know how to explain their neighborhood or where they lived. They just knew how to get home. By the end of the summer, some would have come so far they’d have outperformed the high school freshmen I was scheduled to teach that fall.

Incidentally, my birthday is in August. The owners of the school would tell my students and they’d bring thoughtful gifts. One girl brought in an old fashioned Coca-Cola bottle, inside of which were hundreds of mini origami animals. A boy brought me a gift certificate to East, an insanely huge Asian buffet where offerings include shark fin soup, a zillion kinds of sushi, 30 types of dim sum, and roast suckling pig.

But the most unusual gifts were watermelons, a gift that’s synonymous with good fortune.  As much as I appreciated them, it was a feat trying to trek them home. I felt weird cutting them up in front of the kids, so inevitably I’d haul them from the 7 to the F train, these melons bigger than some small dogs. They were conversation pieces, to say the least.

The week before we finished, when it was so hot it felt as if my clothes would melt off as I waited on the platform, the owners of the school brought teachers thank you gifts of fileted eel that was marinated and cryovaced. I always wondered if there was any significance to the timing of their gift. Is seafood a weird gift? Why eel in summer? Is it like soft shell crabs in spring– a seasonal thing? I didn’t know, but I loved it.

Then in Time Out this week I read how Japanese combat natsubate– heat-related summer fatigue– with eel, because it’s high in vitamin B, and is thought to be a source of strength and stamina. I wonder if the belief in eel’s restorative powers crossed cultures, or if the gift was just coincidence.

In any event, as we amble into the languid month of August, I’d like to test whether there really is something to eel in summer–or at the very least, satiate my craving.  Off the top, I’m thinking Sushi Ko for any variation on an unagi handroll, or Sushi Taro for unadon— broiled eel over rice. Any other suggestions?

“Sweet, Sweet Washington,” says Frank Bruni.

Posted in District of Columbia, New York City by melissamccart on July 23, 2008

From today’s Diner’s Journal:

I returned from a quick trip to Washington, D.C., recently with two happy eating memories, two suggestions to pass along. And that isn’t always the case with food and with Washington, which can delight and disappoint in pretty much equal measures.

Lucky us: Georgetown Cupcake beats the infamous Magnolia Bakery ‘s version “by miles and miles.”

UPDATE: Rasika is the second happy eating moment.


Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest, New York City by melissamccart on May 21, 2008

1) Sustainable seafood at home, slow food barbecue, and beer pairing for the masses at Savor in this week’s Washington Post.

2) Oven Adds Flavor When Grills Can’t. New York Times. Making do without a grill according to Mark Bittman.

3) Grilled Sausages, Tropical Side Dishes for a Memorial Day Menu. LA Times. “Forget arugula. This has become the United States of andouille.”

4) The Spirits Move Them. Chicago Tribune. Cucumber, tangerine, and coriander with your gin? Distilling spirits in the manner of craft brews.

5) The Rarest Tuna of All. San Francisco Chronicle. Is farm-raised Kindai the answer to eco-friendly tuna?

(Sean Brock’s gin at Charleston’s McCrady’s)

Up This Week

Posted in New York City by melissamccart on May 11, 2008

Craving an appetizer?  Check out The Food Section this week, where I’ll be guest blogging for Josh Friedland.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest, New York City by melissamccart on May 7, 2008

                                                                                                        1) Who Needs Trendy? LA Times. Charles Perry writes on long forgotten food trends: weird ketchups, almond milk, and murri.

2) Food for Thought. San Francisco Chronicle. Brain food from Google.

3) Just Like Mom Use to Bake. Chicago Tribune.  Step away from the box.

4) A Taste of Charlottesville. Washington Post. Jane Black writes on one of my favorite local-ish towns.

5) Wine Pleasures. Are They All in Your Head? New York Times. And is it so bad if they are?

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia, General Interest, New York City, South by melissamccart on April 23, 2008

1) Cheap Eats at Home. Sweet. Washington Post. PS7’s Peter Smith whips up a family friendly midweek meal for less than 12 bucks.

2)  You Call that Pudding, Grandma? New York Times.  In the Atlanta Journal Constitution earlier this month, pudding is having a moment.

3) Postcards from China’s Periphery. LA Times. Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid write “Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Other Travels in China,”  which the Times hails as, “that rare book that works on each of the levels to which it aspires: travelogue, cultural anthropology, cookbook. Most important, the food — as storied and diverse as the people who inspired it — works too.”

4) Goodbye, King Hello Coho. San Francisco Chronicle. Wild salmon may be off the menu. San Franciscians are embracing more common fish in the meantime.

At Foreign Cinema in San Francisco, house-cured sardines are on the menu year-round, paired with avocado toasts, fava bean puree or other seasonal accoutrements.

“They’re considered low end, but we try to bejewel them,” says chef-owner Gayle Pirie. “They’re just so bloody tasty.”

Also in the Chronicle: the Hot Dog Days of Spring, with a recipe for neon orange grossness that is currywurst.

5) What’s in Season. Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Rhubarb, mangoes, and raspberries are coming in season.

Go Greek, part two

Posted in District of Columbia, New York City by melissamccart on August 3, 2007

zaytinya.jpgEater lists the New York Daily News observation that “upscale” Greek continues to be so hot right now. Greek chefs like Michael Psilakis of Anthos are working on Batali-izing cuisine the way Lidia and Mario helped update (or authenticate) Italian cuisine on these shores in the ’90s.  

Washington acknowledged that Greek is so hot several years ago with the opening of Zaytinya, Jose Andres’ crowd pleaser featuring Turkish, Lebanese, and Greek fare.  And there’s also Mourayo, the little nook on Connecticut Ave., where the most interesting dishes are among the appetizer, soup, and salad selections.  A friend and I shared lunch there this past week: a grilled shrimp and fennel plate, white beans in tomato and olive oil, and a Poughi Beggar’s Pouch, phyllo dough stuffed with manouri cheese and roasted florino peppers.

Greek wines are on the rise, too.  This past week Ramon Narvaez, sommelier for Marcel’s and Brasserie Beck, observed how underrated Greek wine is as a result of the country’s later admittance to the EU and its relative isolation in comparison to France and Italy. But they’re being served outside of Greek restaurants and are making their way into the mainstream. In Beck’s 30 wines by the glass selection, the Adolis Ghis was one of my favorites.  Naturally, it was one of Sotiris Bafitis‘, who imports selections at Zaytinya and Mourayo as well.

(Zaytinya’s Mushrooms Avgolemono–wild mushrooms served with a traditional Greek egg sauce. Photo by Maxwell MacKenzie.)