November 2008

side-by-side2We’re headed into the home stretch, turkey-wise.  If you took one of my suggestions over at DC Foodies and ordered a fresh turkey, you’re probably getting ready to pick it up today or tomorrow.  If you bought your bird frozen, it should be thawing in your refrigerator by now.  If you’re planning to brine your turkey (and I can’t think of any good reason why you wouldn’t), you should be dunking it in the brine no later than tomorrow morning to give it at least 24 hours to soak in that juice-preserving salty goodness.

So we figured we’d report back on our highly scientific survey regarding smoked vs. roasted turkey.  As you may recall, we here at Capital Spice tested the two methods side-by-side using two halves of the same brined turkey for our Fakesgiving festivities earlier this month.  Now, with more than 50 votes cast, our analysts at Thanksgiving Headquarters are calling this race early.

Here in DC, lopsided electoral victories are hardly newsworthy.  Even so, we were surprised at smoked turkey’s level of support in our poll.  The results as they stand right now have smoked turkey holding onto 70 percent of those polled (37 votes).  Roasted turkey conservatives hold 11 percent of the vote (6 votes), and undecided (or hungry) voters who opted for “Both” make up 19 percent of the electorate with 10 votes.

smoked-turkey2Maybe it was the beautiful lacquered look of the smoked half, with its crispy skin and delicate smoke ring…

Maybe it was the subtle interplay between the richness of the smoke and the light, salty bite of the brine…

Most likely, it was the fact that the vast majority of you who found your way to our comparison did so while searching for some combination of “Big Green Egg,” “turkey” and “smoked” or “smoking.”

Whatever the reason, the people have spoken – and they say it’s time for a change.  So join us this November in welcoming a new direction for America’s holiday with a brined and smoked turkey.

If you do decide to try your hand at smoking your turkey this Thanksgiving, please drop by and let us know how it turns out.  And if you’re in the DC area and want to enjoy a smoked turkey but lack the Big Green Egg or a similar device for smoking it yourself, let Rocklands do the work for you.  Metrocurean has the details on what they’re offering, and it looks great!

We’ve already headed out to spend (Smoked) Turkey Day with family, so you may not hear from us again until the weekend (damn food comas).  Whatever your plans, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving – and check back soon for plenty of food and restaurant news just in time for the holidays.


“We should totally try to make these at home.”

In a lot of cases, as frustration mounts and the joy of recreating something you’ve loved in a restaurant falls victim to repeat failures, this phrase soon turns into “Whose stupid idea was this anyway?”

But a helping hand from a pro like Alice Waters can go a long way toward preventing such disappointment, as I learned this weekend when raw-materialsI attempted to make pickled vegetables like the ones we enjoyed at The Spotted Pig in New York last month.

While looking for another recipe in Waters’ newest cookbook, The Art of Simple Food, I came across her oh-so-easy directions for making quick-pickled vegetables.  I knew I had to give it a shot, to see if it even came close to the tangy goodness of the green beans, beets and other veggies we had in New York.

Details on produce, prep, pickling and palate after the jump. (more…)

tom-yum-goongSo…how ’bout that weather we’re having?  After an October that had us wondering if global warming is such a bad thing after all (it still is, apparently), we’re definitely feeling the chill now.  Here at Capital Spice headquarters, that means we start craving hot comfort foods.

But our (okay…my) days of Chunky Soup and Hot Pockets are mostly behind us, and as much as we love to make risotto we try to eat healthier even in the colder months.  That’s where homemade soups come in, especially soups that are made without any kind of cream base.

On a whim a few weeks ago, I suggested to Elizabeth that we try a homemade version of Tom Yum, the spicy Thai soup that mixes a protein (usually shrimp or chicken), lemongrass, and other traditional thai veggies in a chili-spiked broth.  We’re no strangers to soups that feature shrimp, so we searched out a good-looking recipe and got to work.

They say that great minds think alike, so it was reassuring to see DCist’s post last Friday describing Jamie Liu’s go-to home remedy for fighting off a cold: her version of Tom Yum.

Details on our version – including a few substitions for the hardest-to-find ingredients – after the jump. (more…)

logoTucked away between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there’s an under-appreciated holiday that we here at Capital Spice are all about celebrating:  Repeal Day.

On December 5, 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified by Utah, at which point it had the necessary three-fourths majority of states’ approval and became law.  With that, the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed and Prohibition came to an end after more than thirteen years.

dc-craft-bartendersNow, seventy-five years later, a movement is underway to bring attention to this red letter day in American history.  Jeffrey Morgenthaler has been spearheading the effort, and here in DC he is being joined by the DC Craft Bartenders’ Guild.

What is the DC Craft Bartenders’ Guild, you ask, and what are they doing to celebrate Repeal Day?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

In recent human history, the pharmacy and the oven occupied the same room. That connection is never more apparent than when baking bread on a cold day. I prefer quickbreads to yeast-based breads for banana-apple-bread-41their relative ease.

When the leaves begin to turn and the temperature drops, I rub my hands together and eagerly anticipate one of my favorite fall activities: baking apple banana bread. The mashed bananas, the chopped apples (perhaps just picked from Stribling Orchard, if you time it right), the butter, the optional nuts, the loads of sugar. Oh God – it’s CAKE you can eat for BREAKFAST. What is better than that?

Recipe after the jump. (more…)

brasserie-cherry-blossomsNote to self: when a restaurant that has an annual Beaujolais Nouveau release party doesn’t have the details firmed up ten days out from the event, it’s a pretty good sign something is up.

As it turns out, the reason that Brasserie Les Halles didn’t have their plans set when we published our list of parties last week (we suspect) is because they closed last night.  According to Metrocurean, owner Philippe LaJaunie has put out a press release announcing the closing and indicating that it was due at least in part to the expiration of their lease.  It seems a bit odd that they couldn’t arrange to stick around through Thursday to go out after the Beaujolais release party, and a call to the LHLM (Les Halles-Les Marais) Group in New York received a response indicating that they do not yet have any information to share as the closing just occurred today.

beaujolaisBut far be it from us here at Capital Spice to close one door without opening two windows for you.  If you still haven’t made plans to celebrate the release of the 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau, here are two additional options:

Brightest Young Things and 1905The people who brought us the 12-plus hour election day party now step up to la assiette with a party that offers you a chance to “get Beaujolaid” at the newly-opened 1905.  For $10, you can enjoy wine, drink specials, and French music starting at 9PM on Wednesday (tomorrow) night and counting down to the official release at midnight.  They’ve got a limited number of tickets, so if you want to check out the party you should do yourself a favor and email ASAP.  Yes oui can, huh?  Sounds familiar…

Planete Chic’s Soiree Beaujo Chic – Another option for Friday night.  Join Planete Chic and their international crowd for a no-cover party from 6 to 10PM at Midtown (1219 Connecticut Ave.).  They’re promising sexy lounge beats and French DJ JR le Sainte.  Attire is business casual for this afterwork soiree, but their flyer says very little about Beaujolais Nouveau’s role in the evening.

thirsty-bernie-exterior<<EDIT, 12/8 @ 3:30 PM:  On Friday, several sources reported that Chef Jamie Stachowski’s with Thirsty Bernie was not renewed when it expired on November 30th.  Even more disturbing, Washingtonian’s Best Bites blog quotes Stachowski as saying that owner Steve Sadeghian is planning to focus on “convenience cooking” and will be buying much of his food pre-made. 

Sounds like the things that made Thirsty Bernie stand out among sports bars is now gone, so please do not consider this review reflective of the current restaurant when deciding whether or not to visit.>>

Sports bar.  Strip mall.  Northern Virginia.  Sounds awesome, right?  Generally speaking, this is not a combination that screams “destination dining.”  But if you haven’t heard by now, Thirsty Bernie is no run-of-the-mill sports bar.  It’s a showcase for a chef who made a name for himself downtown and who now has carte blanche to indulge his creativity in an unlikely venue.

I never did make it to Restaurant Kolumbia, so I can’t wax rhapsodic about the way Chef Jamie Stachowski used to impress upscale diners with his charcuterie and his novel takes on classics.  Having experienced Thirsty Bernie with my father recently, however, I can definitely see what everyone is talking about. 

This is a place that takes meat, beer and sports seriously.  And since there are very few places that simultaneously do all three well, it warrants a visit from even the most NoVAphobic Washingtonian.

So what the heck is a ‘weck?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

There are some make-at-home recipes that are simply not worth the effort. Sure, you can take a certain amount of pride in the DIYness of it all, but is it really that much better than the storebought version? When we started the butternut squash turnovers for our Fakesgiving dinner, I was afraid we’d nuts-seeds-and-apricots31stumbled onto another of this ilk. Frankly, the jury was out until we had our first bite of these bad boys right out of the oven.

For our early Fakesgiving dinner courses, Mike and I set out a cheese tray from Cheesetique with a variety of spiced nuts, dried apricots and toasted pumpkin seeds (right). We wanted to add something autumnal and warm as a passed hors d’oeuvres and came across this recipe in October’s Food and Wine magazine. It combined some of our favorite fall ingredients: leeks, squash, mushrooms, thyme, and fresh goat cheese. How could we go wrong?

First of all, if you’ve ever peeled a butternut squash you know what I was in for when I began prepping this recipe. The awkard, semi-phallic squash is a mighty departure from the linear, glide your peeler right over it carrot. It is bulky. It is slippery. It is a treacherous beast to dice if you value your fingertips (and I do, unlike Mike who sacrificed his pinky in a pumpkin carving incident the night before. He is SUCH a knife fighter).

“Gawd,” I called to Mike, who was shaving manchego cheese – sans pinky –  for our macaroni and cheese dish, “this thing is already a pain in the ass.”  I tossed the squash in the oven to cook for about 25 minutes and started in on step two. (Please note this is out of order from the official directions from the magazine. Because efficiency? It’s up there with cleanliness in kitchen virtues.)

leeks-squash-and-shiitake2Luckily step two presented significantly less hazard: saute leeks, mushrooms, garlic, and thyme in olive oil. The smell of this filled our apartment and immediately made me forget about hassle factor of the squash. Once the squash was done baking, I tossed it into the pan with the other ingredients. Okay, this was all coming together.

I covered this concoction and set it aside to prep some other recipes and battle with the dust bunnies so our friends didn’t think we were total slobs.

Final results and the full recipe after the jump.


Some food stories and news to brighten up this gloomy, grey weekend…

Check out this adorable video from the UK’s Thornton’s chocolate. This surprising video from Cadbury’s is the most awarded advertisement of 2008.

Ugly European vegetables got a self-esteem boost this week when the EU changed their ban on imperfect looking vegetables. 

Wondering what wine to pair with your Thanksgiving feast? Uncorked is next Thursday. Have a pre-Thanksgiving meal with various wines and donate your cash to a good cause.

In the mood for Pumpkin Pie yet? FoodieTots has a great recipe with fresh local ingredients. No canned pumpkin for her! 

Slashfood shared the top 5 weirdest Skittles videos. 

After the jump, meet the hottest chef in Peru, restaurant giveaways, find out which hard candy has a “musk” flavor option and Top Chef aplenty!


greenbeanWhen we decided to do our Fakesgiving dinner, we spent an afternoon looking through our foodie magazines for side dishes that would go with our smoked turkey.  We wanted variations on traditional dishes – basic mashed potatoes and green bean casseroles just wouldn’t do.  And we definitely wanted foods with big flavors.  Not surprisingly, we found everything we were looking for in the November issue of Food + Wine Magazine.

mac-and-cheese-prepSure, they had a “Thanksgiving Planner” with three complete menus and more than a dozen recipes, but where’s the fun in that?  Instead, we found ourselves drawn to three recipes from other articles in the magazine.  From an article on ‘upcycling’ (a fancy way of saying ‘using scraps instead of throwing them out’).  From a piece on Cook Here and Now in San Francisco.  And from a writeup of a Spanish-influenced Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Philadelphia chef Jose Garces.

The first of the dishes, a macaroni and cheese dish using manchego cheese and the green tops of leeks, immediately caught our eyes (what can I say, I’m a sucker for mac and cheese).  The recipe looked easy enough, if a bit rich, and we knew we would already be using leeks in one of the other dishes we were planning.  I love it when a plan comes together…

Preparations, photos and judges’ reactions after the jump. (more…)

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