November 2008


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.

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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!

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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…)

 One of the DC’s biggest foodie parties of the year is around the corner: Old Ebbitt Grill’s Oyster Riot is November 21st and 22nd, when hundreds of lucky diners will slurp, drink and dance their way through the night. oyster-riot1

Oyster Riot is an all-you-can-eat-and-drink oysterthon hosted by DC institution restuarant, The Old Ebbitt Grill. For the Riot, OEB takes over the atrium directly behind their downtown restaurant and fills it with a live band and oyster producers from across the country giving diners an amazing opportunity for a side-by-side comparison of oysters from the four corners.

Mike and I attended for the first time last year and loved it. We loved it so much, in fact, that we’re heading back for Round 2 this year. In the weeks leading up to our first experience, I was a little apprehensive. We’d heard horror stories of long lines, sharp elbows and vendors that ran out of oysters. Would this turn out to be a high end foodie fight?

Luckily no, but this is a unique dining experience, without a doubt.  We’ve put together some tips for first time Rioters and veterans who, like us, just want to get the most out of their Oyster Riot experience.

Tips after the jump! (more…)

top-chef<<EDIT 11/12 @ 10:30 AM:  Eager to find out more about Carla before the premiere tonight?  Check out this quick Q&A over at the Washington Post that appeared in today’s Food section.>> 

Tomorrow night, the first of seventeen cheftestants will be told to pack their knives and leave.  Top Chef is back, and they’ve brought their biggest cast ever for Season Five.  This time, DC and Baltimore are both represented: Carla Hall, chef and owner of Alchemy Caterers, is our hometown favorite, and Jill Snyder of Red Maple hails from Charm City.

Eager to learn more about our local competitor, I reached out to Carla through Alchemy.  She was really sweet and eager to talk to local writers, so we scheduled an interview through Bravo’s publicity folks (a necessity to ensure that candidates don’t give away anything TOO juicy).

carlaIf you’re like us and can’t wait for Wednesday night to come, this chat with Carla Hall should help to tide you over.

We started out talking about Carla’s approach to cooking – something she’s probably discussed dozens of times since the show started taping.  But she was gracious, taking the time to explain that her approach can be best described as “elegant comfort food.”  Her biography on the Top Chef website talks about her introduction of classic French techniques (honed at Bethesda’s L’Academie de Cuisine) to traditional Southern recipes, and her description seems to sum that up perfectly. 

Carla and the folks at Alchemy Caterers take it even further than that: it’s about changing the way people experience food.  They source much of their produce and heritage-breed meats from local producers like Tuscarora Farms and South Mountain.  And Carla works with her clients to get an understanding of who they are, then she uses that to inspire her dishes – she will completely rework a dish or just make a few small tweaks to better suit a person based on their interactions.

More insights into DC’s next Top Chef – including some of her favorite dishes around town and former cheftestant Spike Mendelsohn’s take on Carla – after the jump. (more…)

<<EDIT 11/18 @ 4:00 PM:  In case you’ve clicked into this post directly, we’ve got some big news about Brasserie Les Halles’ plans (or lack thereof) and two more Beaujolais Nouveau events here.  Check it out.>>

You have to hand it to the French, they know marketing. They invented high cuisine and luxury goods while European neighbors were still playing with their food. Have a fresh wine that won’t age as well as its cousins? Create a race to deliver the first bottles to cafes and restaurants across the world!

It’s the perfect combination of product and advertising, really. The wine is bottled no more than three days after harvest and designed to be consumed soon and fast.  The wine, a light, fruity red, is practically meant for gulping rather than swirling and sipping. Being the lovers of bureaucracy that they are, the French government has even stepped in to regulate the process: By French law, Beaujolais Nouveau can not be released before the third Thursday of November. DC restaurants and organizations take advantage of this, with fantastic parties leading up to the great moment at midnight when the wine is delivered to the crowd like a champion boxer.

Although the reservations for Bistrot du Coin’s popular pre-release dinner and midnight toast are long gone and none of the newer wine bars (Cork, Proof, Veritas, Vinoteca) have announced any Beaujolais Nouveau-related events, there are still quite a few option out there for Francophiles and wine-lovers alike.

Details on where to get your Beaujolais on after the jump. (more…)

It is a glorious Saturday and we’re spending as much time outside as possible. Hopefully without an intervention from the DC fire deparment like last weekend… Here are some foodie news and stories to warm up your morning:yes-we-carve3

In case you haven’t heard, Taylor Gourmet is now open for business on H St. NE.

Dunkin Donuts is twittering.

Still celebrating Obama’s victory? Join the party this weekend. Before you go, check out the President-Elect Obama’s favorite snack foods.

Get buff with Pepsi’s new muscle milk

If you’re planning to check out some VA country fall foliage this weekend, swing by Three Fox Vineyard on Saturday night. They are staying open an extra hour and making s’mores to celebrate the close of their harvest season. You can even toast your marshmallow on one of the spears from the vines.

Rocklands will be selling smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving this year. Personally, we prefer to do the smoking ourselves.

Cupcake challenges, Virgina vineyards for sale, and Darth Vader toast after the jump!

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