February 2009

So is anyone else still a little bummed after this week’s Top Chef finale? It isn’t simply that Carla didn’ t win, it’s just hard to watch when she was so clearly disappointed in her final product. Chin up, Carla. We still can’t wait to take one of your cooking classes in your new kitchen!

Casey Thompson got a lot of heat immediately after the show from viewers who blamed her for Carla’s downfall. For her part, Carla has made a point to say this isn’t the case and defend Casey. Casey has… talked some smack to Dallas bloggers SideDish. It’s worth a read but it isn’t pretty. 

Metrocurean offers up tips on good food photos.  

Pizza chains are feeling a pinch these days. Numbers are down as consumers wander to healthier fast food options or less expensive burger joints.  

Wonkabout reviews Asian Spice.  

Tropicana unveiled a new product design in January… and consumer feedback against the change was so vehement that they are changing it back to the original.

Spike of Good Stuff won a few awards at the SoBe burger bash. 

Did you know Virginia has its own molasses farms?

Check out the local names in this year’s James Beard Award nominations. 

Ever wonder how chefs stay fit? Or, if not fit, how they keep from being totally obese?  You can also check out tips on how to eat healthy even when dining out. 

DC Gastronome tries out Coeur de Lion for Restaurant Week.

In Los Angeles, Korean is the new taco
… but back east, is Brooklyn the new Berkeley for food? 

Check out Lemmonex’s classic bolognese recipe.

Dine out for charity: Share Our Strength’s annual bash is March 30.  

Top Chef’s Tom Coliccho talks about getting teens to eat healthy food (no mention of Diet Coke) while Padma is shilling for…. Hardee’s. 

The 42 Bus enjoys the food and soundtrack at California Tortilla.

More news after the jump! (more…)

It’s been a big week for interviews here at Capital Spice.  First Elizabeth had a chance to chat with Top Chef finalist (and our absolute favorite) Carla Hall in advance of last night’s finale.  Then I had a chance to catch up with Todd Thrasher as he gets ready for the Domaine de Canton Bartender of the Year competition in Saint Maarten next month.

thrasherBack in December, we wrote about Todd Thrasher’s big win over some of New York’s best bartenders and mixologists in the regional semi-finals of Domaine de Canton’s Bartender of the Year competition.  Since then, Washingtonian has added some additional details to the picture: it turns out Thrasher made it to the semi-finals when a friend submitted an older recipe of his unbeknownst to him!

This week, we had the opportunity to chat with the Proprietor/Sommelier/Bartender at Restaurant Eve and PX about the upcoming finals, which are taking place in Saint Maarten on Monday, March 9th.  He’ll be facing off against the five winners (and the six runners-up) from the other semi-final competitions that took place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Boston.  Even with the $10,000 prize on the line, Thrasher’s numerous responsibilities have made it pretty hard for him to do much in the way of hardcore preparation for the contest.  But if his previous performance is any indication, he’s more than ready to go.

Cocktail conversations with Thrasher after the jump. (more…)

We’ve had the good fortune to get some quality time with Top Chef finalist Carla Hall. Before the show premiered, Mike got to chat with her when she was one in a mob of 17 chefs vying for the top spot. Several weeks later, Capital Spice was there to celebrate her triumphant win in the Super Bowl/All Stars episode alongside Carla and her husband, Good Stuff’s Chef Spike and a horde of fans  during a viewing party at Good Stuff. (The same party where Carla surprised her husband Matthew with Super Bowl tickets – an event almost as sweet as the win).

Now we’re gearing up for the Top Chef finale and waiting with bated breath for Carla’s performance. The night before the finale aired, we were able to speak with her again about her feelings about the show, plans for the future, Tom Colicchio’s Diet Coke ad, and how YOU could hang out with her tomorrow night.

Check out her insights after the jump. Hootie Hoo! (more…)

Man, sometimes I just gotta bake. There are some Saturday mornings where nothing will fall into place until I’m standing at the kitchen counter wearing an apron and trying to wipe flour smudges off my cheek.

img_1942A few weeks ago, I was searching for a way to use up leftover buttermilk we had in the fridge from the loaded sweet potato skins. After some searching Mike came across this recipe for jam-filled buttermilk biscuits from Bon Appetit and it sounded ideal – like a breakfast appropriate linzer torte cookie and I could use the homemade strawberry-rhubarb preserves we made over the summer. Double win! I was off and running.

Until the first step: whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to blend. Freeze flour mixture 1 hour. Okay, yes in theory this is a simple step. But who has freaking room for a mixing bowl in their freezer? We shop at Trader Joe’s, people – our freezer is already packed! I transfered the mixture from the standing mixer’s  bowl to a slightly smaller one and played a game of freezer Tetris to make it work.  I’m still not sure what the point of this step is. If anyone does know, can you please clue me in?

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the next step blew smoke out of my ears: Transfer flour mixture to food processor. Add butter (already cut into small pieces) and cut in using on/off turns on the food processor. Seriously? I read this one a gazillion times. As much as I love to bake, I admittedly don’t understand the inherent chemistry of baking so I usually follow directions to the letter. But one baking commandment that has always served me well is Thou Shalt Not Overmix Flour.  This is especially important once something liquidy is added like eggs or milk. You end up with a tough, rubbery consistency. For realies, I don’t even let the standing mixer do the work once a dry and wet mixtures are combined – its just me and the spatula. But, this is Bon Appetit and I guess they know what they’re doing so into the food processor it went.

Next steps, more headaches and the recipe after the jump. (more…)

img_6895As you may recall, I resolved to try at least one restaurant-quality recipe each month as my foodie resolution for the year.  As you may notice, it’s now the last week of February and I have yet to report on any such efforts.

January kind of got away from me in this department, but I’m pleased to report that I started my resolution with a vengeance in February (for the record, I’m also committed to making up a recipe so that I still end up with twelve by year’s end).

I knew that I wanted to open strong – and local – so I spent some time looking around from recipes from some of DC’s best-known chefs.  What did I learn?  That most of those celebrity chefs are smart enough to put their recipes in book form.  As such, there are very few recipes from the likes of Michel Richard and Jose Andres that are available for free online.  As I progress through this resolution, I may just need to invest in a few more cookbooks (or reach out to some foodie friends for help).

img_6905I lucked out when I found out that Jose Andres cooked a few of his recipes for the Today Show last January – they were good enough to publish the recipes online.  I looked through them, and I was thrilled!  As it turns out, one of the recipes is for a “pork loin baked in sea salt,” and the technique is exactly like one demonstrated by Katsuya Fukushima at L’Academie de Cuisine last month.

I knew I had to try it – and I decided to do so along with seared piquillo peppers from the same Today Show segment.

Photos, descriptions and more after the jump. (more…)

teddy-crushable…Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s!

And – as we suggested yesterday – it was a decisive victory.  Teddy received more than 1400 votes out of a total 2300 votes cast, making him the clear favorite!  He easily outpaced his nearest opposition, the dreamy (and newly-announced chef of the forthcoming Blue Ridge restaurant in Glover Park) Barton Seaver.

So what was it that put Teddy over the top?  Was it his boyish smile, his easygoing charm, or his killer mussels and frites?  Needless to say, it was all of these and more.  In the comments, Molly called Teddy “a great person,” an assessment that seems almost universally shared among those who meet him.

She’s also quick to point to his “awesome knife skills”…not the kind of thing you’d expect to look for in crush material, but who are we to argue?

peter-smith-ps7While we’re sharing the love for Teddy, we also need to give an Honorable Mention nod to Peter Smith of PS7’s.  A local boy made good (his family settled in the area when he was six), Smith helmed the kitchen at Vidalia for almost a decade before striking out on his own.  Along the way, he’s made quite a few fans with his locally-focused cuisine and his attention to his customers.  He received several write-in votes via email and your comments, including one that called him a “boy-next-door good guy.” 

The moral of the story?  Our readers like their crushes friendly and accessible, serving up good food with a big smile.  Gordon Ramsay, consider yourself warned.

Want to celebrate Folkman’s win?  Stop in to Granville Moore’s for a beer and his signature moules fromage bleu, or check out the recipe over at Metrocurean and try your hand at making them yourself.

Our love for Teddy is well-known – we cheered him on at his Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and we’re still convinced that he would make a great Food Network star if given the chance.  For now, Teddy’s our most crushable DC chef, and we’re happy to join him for a great Belgian beer and some moules frites whenever we get the chance.  We’ll try to keep the sighing and the goofy smiles to a minimum, but we make no promises.

2344992953_37734fb072_oWith just over 18 hours to go until we announce the results of our highly scientific Valentine’s survey, it looks like Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s is out to a COMMANDING lead over his four opponents.

But is it enough to hold on for the win?  Could Barton Seaver stage a dramatic comeback?  Will Katsuya Fukushima suddenly catch fire?

othersAnd where are all the Johnny Monis and Spike Mendelsohn fans out there?  Talk about surprises!

Got a favorite?  You’ve got until midnight tonight to cast your votes (and to rally the troops behind your choice).

Ring the bell, if you can find it. It’s about three feet to the left of Marvin’s front door and barely marked. Try turning img_6579the handle if no one is outside. The rule of thumb is if the door is unlocked, they have room for walk-ins. If it’s locked, they do not. You can try getting on the guest list…but good luck.

Gibson opened less than a year ago and has remained relatively under the radar since then. Like PX and the short-lived but wonderful Hummingbird to Mars, Gibson continues the DC cocktail trend of faux speakeasy bars. Typically this means chic, luxurious interior and the most superior cocktails to be found in the area. It also means no crowds, some type of code of conduct, and patience. Patience to get in and patience to receive your drinks once you place an order.

At Gibson, like PX, there is no standing room at the bar. Gibson can accomodate no more than 50 people at a time. Seats are given according to reservation at specific intervals with some room held for walk-ins (allegedly). On several occasions when Mike and I have found ourselves in the U St area for the night we’ve strolled by the front door to check on empty space. More often than not, a dapperly dressed man with a clipboard and knit fingerless gloves (“very Dickensian,” Babe-B-Q points out) would put us on the waiting list and promise to text us when they had availability. The night went on, the text never came.

Finally, I made a reservation about two weeks in advance. What a difference advance planning makes. The woman on the other end of the phone took my name and phone number and asked what time we would prefer.  We arrive about 20 minutes before our reservation and “I’m sorry, your table isn’t ready yet.” No problem, we skip over to Ben’s Next Door for a quick drink. We swing back five minutes after our reservation. “Absolutely, welcome.” We are in!

Drinks and our experience inside after the jump. (more…)

img_6831It’s not every day you hear someone say, “you’ve just got to try their pierogi!” – at least not in Washington you don’t.

We may be awash in a sea of tapas joints…
We may proudly boast about our plethora of Ethiopian restaurants…
We may have more pho than we can shake a stick at…

…But the classics of Eastern European cuisine still don’t show up on too many menus around town.

img_6843Which makes it that much more impressive that Elizabeth was able to track down Domku, a restaurant that specializes in “Scandinavian and Slavic Comfort Food” a few weeks ago.  She was looking for some place special to take me in celebration of my new job, and she knows how much I enjoy the cusines of Eastern Europe (blame the Russian side of the family for my love of mushroom-barley soup and kasha).  I had never even heard of Domku, tucked away on Upshur Street just off of Georgia Avenue.

But now I can’t wait to go back.  Everything about this Petworth gem, from its Bohemian decor of luxe chandeliers and mismatched furniture to its lengthy list of house-infused aquavits, made me feel all warm inside (okay…the aquavit may have had the most to do with that).

More photos and some great ethnic delights after the jump. (more…)

When I was in middle school, I spent several summers in Fresno, California staying with my BFF Jessica. Our mothers are caramel-walnut-biscotticlose friends and Jessica’s mom, Rita, was like a second mother to me. Rita was born in Italy and always amazed us with her homemade pastas and sauces. One afternoon, Rita wandered by Jessica and me in the family room (we were watching Coming to America for the gazillionth time) and cooed, “I’m making cookies!” Oh perfect day. I had visions of gooey chocolate chip cookies in my near future. What greeted me instead were long, crunchy biscotti. What was this atrocity? There was no melted chocolate, no soft warm center. These were not cookies.

Many years later, my tastes have expanded and I’ve become a big fan of biscotti. They’re a lovely mid-afternoon treat or housewarming gift. Yes, they take a little longer to make with the double-baking and flipping, but they’re a fairly easy recipe to master.

I stumbled on the recipe for caramel walnut biscotti in the aptly named cookbook Biscotti, by Lou Seibert Pappas, and jumped on the chance to try it. Recipe and baking experience after the jump. (more…)

Next Page »