Counter Intelligence

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.


Road Trip: Richmond’s Belmont Butchery

Posted in South by melissamccart on September 1, 2008

I’ve headed down to Richmond several times this summer since a friend moved there for work. Despite the city’s reverence for the Civil War, I really like Richmond. The houses are lovely, there’s terrific shopping, and the restaurants have soul, whether it’s Kuba-Kuba, Mamma ‘Zu, Buzz and Ned’s Barbecue, or Comfort.

On my last trip, I stopped by Belmont Butchery to talk with Richmonder Tanya Cauthen, a Swiss-trained chef who opened in Carytown nearly two years ago. After working in Australia, Cauthen– who had also been a chef at The Frog and the Redneck— returned to Richmond craving a butcher shop. “Within six weeks, I secured funds, rented space, and opened,” she says. “Fortunately it came so fast, I didn’t know what I was getting into.”

Two years later, she has four employees, a slew of regulars, and mentions in Saveur  as well as an upcoming issue of Food and Wine.

Most of Cauthen’s products, which include duck sausage, head cheese, guanciale, mortadella, and bacon, are made in-house from locally-raised, grass-fed, heritage pigs and cows.  She also features a small yet ambitious wine selection, pork and duck broth, and crowd-pleasers for a cheese board such as Pt. Reyes Blue and La Tur. Customers looking for cooking inspiration can browse cookbooks lining shelves around the shop.

 In addition to Belmont Butchery, foodtrippers may also want to check out Yellow Umbrella Seafood, The Compleat Gourmet, and Penzeys.

(photo from Richmond Food Collective.)

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)

Happy Weekend

Posted in South by melissamccart on July 19, 2008

Good advice.

Tales of the Cocktail. . .

Posted in South by melissamccart on July 18, 2008

Though it’s only day one, I’ve learned a few things already down here in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail. Such as– apparently there’s an East Coast and a West Coast style of cocktail making. I can sample a dozen cocktails in a night and still be fresh the next morning. And there just isn’t enough time to taste and sip from every stop I’d want to in a weekend.

Last night, our very own Gina Chersevani did a terrific job pairing cocktails with the tasting menu at John Besh’s Restaurant AugustMetrocurean and I especially liked this cocktail:

Lavender and Cucumber Sour

1.5 oz. Hendrick’s Gin-1/4 oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liquor – 3/4 oz. Sonoma Lavender Syrup – 1/2 oz. lemon juice – 1/2 egg white – 2 slices cucumber – 2 dashes lavender bitters.

Muddle cucumber with lavender syrup. Add Hendrick’s and other ingredients, and shake well.  Serve over fresh ice in a rocks glass, and garnish with a cucumber slice and sprig of fresh lavender.

Sweet Tea in DC

Posted in District of Columbia, South by melissamccart on June 16, 2008

Someone got me a subscription to Garden and Gun, which is kinda funny since I don’t have either.  The writing is good, though– like a less obscure Oxford American.  Last month, John Currence from City Grocery did a piece on barbecue. This month, Rick Bragg writes on Miami’s “killer cuban sandwiches.” The food writing is lively and original. Whomever signed me up knew I’d like something in it.

Anyway, this month also features “Sweet Tea: A Love Story” by Allison Glock– an interesting piece on the origins of the drink and its evangelists. 

My father, a doctor, explained to me that sweet tea is the devil’s brew, blood-sugar-wise. A glass of sweet tea is around 22 percent sugar, twice that of a can of cola. Add to that the ubiquitous free refills and you’re looking at enough sugar to choke Augustus Gloop.

What makes for perfect sweet tea?  Brew using a handful of bags of Lipton or Luzianne. Pour hot tea over a mound of sugar or simple syrup. Add water to dilute, stir and serve over ice.  People who use “fancy stuff”– raspberries, using a coffee maker to brew, baking soda–“These people are annoying.”

Even though it’s so simple, apparently every sweet tea is different.  Her favorite is at The Chintzy Rose in Knoxville, Tennessee. “Notes of orange and lemon intertwine with the sharpness of the tea, all of it buoyed by a mysterious sweetness unlike your basic simple syrup.”

That said, sounds like the further south you go, the better the sweet tea. That would mean DC is too far north.  Even West Virginia is dubious. “My mother’s sweet tea was not the best, perhaps this is because she was from West Virginia, a place where people drink sweet tea with some ambivalence.”

Do people drink sweet tea here– the drink equivalent of icing?  And would anyplace here convert a skeptic?


Okra Accolades

Posted in District of Columbia, South by melissamccart on May 27, 2008

Because of its slimy tendencies, okra isn’t exactly the most coveted vegetable. But fans are outspoken. They include author and DC resident John Martin Taylor who waxed poetic this past weekend on The Splendid Table, during which he discusses okra-based dishes discovered on his trip through Sri Lanka, as well international origins for Southern US okra classics. (Check out his okra related writings on his blog, too.)

Not sure if you’re a fan?  Try out Rasika’s bhindi amchoor or make it at home:

Ingredients: one pound of okra-1/2 c oil-1/2 t cumin seeds-10 oz chopped onion-1 t chopped ginger-1/2 t chopped green chili-1/2 t tumeric-1/2 t red chili powder-2 t dried mango powder-1 t lemon juice-1 T chopped cilantro-salt to taste

Instructions: Remove okra head and cut into quarters lengthwise. Heat oil in saute pan, add cumin seeds and saute until they crackle. Add chopped onions and cook until translucent. Saute ginger, green chili, tumeric, and red chili powder. Add okra; cook until soft.  Add mango powder, salt to taste, cilantro, and lemon juice. 

Any other terrific okra dishes we should try? Leave it in the comments.


Rooftop Low Country

Posted in District of Columbia, South by melissamccart on May 6, 2008

Having grown up in the North, I had never been enticed by a low country boil until I had talked to Metrocurean about it the same week my parents told me about theirs at a party down in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina.

I finally had one this past weekend at a Nascar tailgate–yes, Nascar— when hosts made a terrific version with red potatoes, corn on the cob, and shrimp, and sausage, minus crab.

Now I’m obsessed and have to have my own with help from the Lee Brothers. Though I don’t have an idyllic setting, round one is tonight on my roof for neighbors, with skillet cornbread on the side.  At least we’ll have terrific weather and a lovely 360 view of the city.

Don’t have time or incentive to make it? Check out the crawfish and shrimp boils at Acadiana, Fridays on the patio from 3:30 to 6:30.

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.

Beer Run

Posted in District of Columbia, South by melissamccart on April 20, 2008

Though the beer list doesn’t come close to those at Rustico or Brasserie Beck, Beer Run is a laid-back speciality shop in Charlottesville– the type I wish we’d get more of here.  Both a store and a bar (read: Cheesetique), Beer Run stocks 250 beers, a nice little wine selection, and some nibbles that range from fancy chips and locally made cheese and sausages. And I’m partial to the name because I like the song in spite of myself.

But it’s the inexpensive, casual breakfast and lunch menus that hit the spot and seems to bring in all types: hippies, beer dorks, college kids, families, old men in suits, and people like me, just travelling through. Open daily at 7am, scramble tacos are under five bucks— not to mention, no one frowns if you decide on a morning Guinness, though coffee standards are available.  And I so wish for a fun sandwich place for lunch, where it’s as easy to get hot dogs on pretzel bread or a gouda, apples, spinach, and balsamic sandwich with a Bell’s Oberon.

And as for service? They also deliver.