June 2008


It\'s a cookoff!In the world of competitive barbecue, there are two camps that largely define the field – the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) and Memphis Barbecue Association, also known as Memphis in May (MiM).  Each has its own traditional flavors, its own set of rules, and its own national championship.  Although many competitors participate in competitions that are sanctioned by each organization interchangeably, there has never been a joint competition.

This year’s Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle took the first step toward making a unified competition a reality.  For the first time ever, KCBS and MiM held competitions at the same location on the same weekend, with each crowning its own Grand Champion.  Though each contest was judged according to its own organization’s format, this sets the stage for future cooperative events.  On Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22nd, Pennsylvania Avenue became the hot spot for local barbecue enthusiasts, and I was there to weigh in as a judge.

Barbecue as far as the eye could see...For those of us who are only certified to judge KCBS-sanctioned events, this year’s Safeway Barbecue Battle represented the first time that we could actually participate as judges in the event – previously, it was exclusively an MiM event and, as such, only Memphis-certified judges were needed.  But the addition of the KCBS contest – which was judged on Saturday, the 21st – gave three dozen of us a chance to sit down on Saturday afternoon and taste our way through the competitors’ ribs, pulled pork, chicken and brisket.

Barbecue competitions’ dirty little secret after the jump.

(more…)

Advertisements

A graphic accompanying the Post\'s article, created by Gene Thorp for the PostWhen the Argonaut first opened its doors in August of 2005, those of us who live near the H Street corridor welcomed it as the first sign of life returning to the neighborhood.  There were those who worried that Joe Englert’s plans to open eight establishments between 12th and 15th Streets would start us down a path that would turn H Street into “Adams Morgan Northeast,” but community response was generally positive.  In the three years since then, we have seen a steady influx of new establishments that are giving the Atlas District (as the neighborhood has since been branded, in honor of the Atlas Performing Arts Center) a very different flavor.

Last week, the Washington Post confirmed this with a front-page article in the Food Section entitled “H is for Happening.”  The piece is written by Jane Black, a Post staff writer who has contributed dining and food-related items in Washington, New York and Boston (she was the food editor at Boston Magazine before coming to the Post) – so it’s safe to say she knows a bit about the subject.

Seriously?  An article about H Street that doesn’t focus on its Hipster appeal (who hasn’t read about Drunken Jenga at the Rock and Roll Hotel by now?) or its burgeoning nightlife scene?  More after the jump. (more…)

Two of these things are not like the others...On a recent visit to the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market, I decided to check out the fresh, local eggs to find out just what the big deal is.  Writers and chefs alike sing the praises of farm-fresh eggs, waxing rhapsodic about their bright orange yolks and the depth of their flavor.  Me, I’m happy if it scrambles nicely without sticking too badly, so I wasn’t especially eager to pay roughly twice as much for something I’d be eating just as quickly.  Even so, a recent incident with farmers’ market asparagus (it amazes me how rarely Elizabeth says “I told you so” despite the countless opportunities I provide her) made me think that maybe there was something to back up the hype, so I purchased a half-dozen eggs from one of the half-dozen vendors offering them.

Right away, I could see a distinct difference between my store-bought eggs and the ones from the market – the ones from the market were brown.

More examples of my mastery of the blatantly obvious (and an actual comparison) after the jump. (more…)

For some people, the news that Brennan Proctor and his family would be closing their hot sauce emporium, located on 7th Street, SE, at Eastern Market, is a sad shock.  But those who know some of what Uncle Brutha’s has been through over the past two years see it as another sign that the neighborhood is still a long way from recovering in the aftermath of last year’s market fire.  And, more importantly, they see it as an opportunity for Uncle Brutha’s to focus on what they do best – make and sell delicious, locally-produced hot sauces. (more…)

 

Lock Up Your Grocers! Wal-Mart is on the Move
Brace yourself Bridget: Wal-Mart announced plans for a “neighborhood” food store this week.
Marketside, a “small community grocery store” (I swear, this is how they are described on the website) will open a handful of locations soon in various Arizona neighborhoods.

The principle here is that Arizonans, and presumably the rest of the country in due time, need a quick meal grocery store option. Marketside will offer “complete meal solutions” to the busy shopper. The store places a heavy emphasis on prepared meals, fresh ingredients and affordable prices. Yes, in theory these are all good things but this whole evil plan leaves a pit in my stomach. First off, I’m concerned that Wal-Mart will apply it’s well-polished business attack of driving small producers out and inflating prices in these neighborhoods they claim to care so much about. (more…)

You can set your watch to specific events in DC: cherry blossoms on the tidal basin, interns clogging Georgetown sidewalks and, for Mike and me, summertime crabs at the Quarterdeck.

Tucked away behind non-descript apartment buildings and on the edge of Ft. Meyer, this is not the type of restaurant you stumble upon by accident. Nope, you need to twist and turn your way through residential streets and — just when you’re pretty sure you’ve lost your way – there it is.

Georgetown upstarts aside, this is a crab shack in the truest sense of the word. It isn’t fancy (a friend of mine still blames a breakup on the restaurant’s lackluster atmosphere) or fussy and that is exactly why we love it. Quarterdeck has a full menu and is open year round, serving up burgers and sandwiches in the colder months. You can easily spot the summertime patrons (ahem) from the year-round loyalists. The latter are a no frills lot who hang out at the bar and would look just as at ease in a VFW hall.  

Service is straightforward and friendly, quick to supply refills on your pitchers of beer and fries while you pound away at your crustacean friends with the wooden mallets they provide. (Bibs are also available.)

You can order your crabs by the dozen, half-dozen or crab feast. Really, for $34.95, the feast is a steal and the only way to go. The only catch is everyone at your table needs to order the all-you-can-feast option or no feast for you! Quarterdeck receives a daily crab shipment in the season but it’s still wise to call ahead to reserve your batches. The crabs arrive en masse as soon as the kitchen can churn them out, dumped on your table still steaming with a healthy dusting of Maryland Old Bay seasoning. If you order the feast, the crabs keep coming and coming until you cry uncle (this is also when you start to regret all those french fries you had at the start of the meal).

(More after the jump)

(more…)

Foodie Magazine Day!  Foodie Magazine Day!For my second “Foodie Magazine Day” post, I turn to Bon Appetit.  Maybe it’s the fact that this was our first real food magazine (thanks to a free year’s subscription that came with our purchase of the Bon Appetit cookbook), or maybe it’s the focus on more accessible (and therefore more appealing) recipes and experiences, but this remains one of my favorite sources for recipes and cooking inspirations.

In the June 2008 issue, Bon Appetit encourages readers to start a cooking club and provides a set of recipes that lend themselves to having the group cook them together in one kitchen (assuming all of your prep work is done ahead of time and your kitchen is bigger than most Capitol Hill condos, of course).  Although we weren’t planning to start a cooking club, the main course of the meal caught my eye.

Sliced duck breast, broiled plums and bacon-wrapped asparagusElizabeth and I both love the big flavor of duck, but we had only tried to cook it once before and we had purchased pre-packaged poultry for that attempt.  As part of our ongoing effort to do as much of our own food preparation as possible, I decided to visit nearby Capitol Hill Poultry in Eastern Market to pick up some duck and try it myself.  I bought the front halves of two whole ducks, bones and all, and brought them home.  I began to approach them the way I approach a whole chicken, cutting along the central bones, when I noticed that the breast halves seemed to sit along flat ridges.  Working my knife and then my fingers between the ridge and the muscle, I was actually able to pull the meat cleanly away without any of the laborious butchering I had been expecting.  After that, it was just a matter of trimming the breast halves to remove some of the excess fat.

More about my attempts to follow Bon Appetit’s lead and the recipe after the jump. (more…)

Next Page »