March 2010

Part of the fun of being a foodie is recording your adventures in both word and still life. I’ve seen many a food blogger whip our their camera (ps – do ALL food bloggers have the Canon Rebel or what?) and angle for the best possible shot of the meal they’re about to enjoy. But I know a lot of us don’t know many tricks and tools beyond the macros setting.

Jennifer Winter is joining us as a guest blogger today to give everyone some tips on taking beautiful food photographs. 

Happy eating!

–  Elizabeth and Mike

The fun of foodie photography

photo by Jennifer Winter

I am the person you see in the newest DC hotspot, subtly revealing their camera in the hopes to capture (and do justice to) each of the plates presented from the kitchen.  I am a foodie photographer.  I appreciate picturesque landscapes, candid moments and stunning sunsets, but there is nothing like capturing the creativity, the colors, textures and overall presentation of an inventive Chef. 

 However, it can be intimidating to brandish a camera in a dimly lit room where people are striving to maintain their own private spaces and then ruin it with a bright flash.  I’ve been on the receiving end of judge mental looks of fellow patrons – its just not comfortable.  The good news is there are ways to get the shots you want, without bringing too much attention to yourself and you don’t necessarily need a professional SLR to do it. 

I have two cameras that I use for food photography and to be honest, I decide which one I am going to carry based on the size of my purse (I know, I know).  The first is a basic Canon SD800 IS point and shoot and the other camera is a Canon Rebel XTi.  No matter which size camera you use, as long as you keep in mind a few technical pointers you can achieve great food images.  

 1) Make sure to set your white balance appropriately.  Most cameras have an auto function for on-the-go circumstances, but if you have time and have the functionality on your camera use the custom option.  This will ensure that you have the most accurate measurement of color temperature for the current light conditions and you will be happier with the overall results of the image. 

More tips after the jump!


One of the best parts about travel – especially travel that involves drinking and dining well – is coming back and sharing what you found with friends.  Stories of amazing meals and beautiful sights, photos that capture it all in vivid color…it’s like reliving the trip.  But the real joy comes in sharing the goodies you bring back with you.

After a recent trip to Belgium, our friends Itty Bitty Betty and the Bacon Terrorist offered us plenty of all three.  We asked I.B.B. to share with you, too.

Sorry…we finished all the beer.

-Elizabeth and Mike

While we all reap the benefits of D.C.’s growing love affair with Belgian beer, actually visiting Belgium last year gave me new appreciation for my favorite decadent, boozy brews. I am lucky that my boyfriend, the Bacon Terrorist, and I share a fascination with triples, doubles, lambics, and all of their delectable contemporaries. After talking about going to Belgium for years to enjoy them in their natural habitat, I was thrilled when we finally booked the trip.

Arriving in Brussels, our mission was simple: seek and imbibe every beer we had never seen in the States, and if we knocked back a few old favorites along the way, even better. This was actually harder than it sounds. While we think of Belgium as a brewtopia, where every bar contains magical brews you’ve never heard of before, most bars carry a similar selection of drafts (e.g. Leffe, Stella Artois, and Maes Pils – think Belgian Heineken). Still, we didn’t have to go too far off the beaten path to find unique bars with local brews that don’t frequently journey over the Atlantic.

For “must-visit” bars in Brussels, we recommend Toone, a bar and puppet theater in one. Unlike other bars in the area, Toone is not nearly as touristy. They have a modest selection of beers, including Oud Beersel Oude Kriek, an earthy cherry lambic with all the essence of cherry, but without the added sugar of more popular DeTroch and Lindemans brands. Beware though, for those used to these brands, or the Huyghe Floris beers, the Oude Kriek will be acidic and sharp in comparison. While you can get Oude Kriek in the D.C. area (Brickskeller and Rustico carry it), my better half just couldn’t help himself after Toone’s proprietor gushed about how it contained “Four kilograms of ze cherries…per gallon!”

Another bar worth grabbing a drink (or four) in is Delirium Café, which offers a full draft selection of the entire Huyghe catalogue, and a rowdy dive-bar atmosphere.  The Cantillon brewery is another fun stop in the neighborhood, complete with self-guided tour and a tasty pour of lambics at the end.

Other standout beers were Ciney Brown, Mort Subite (“the sudden death”), and Grottenbier, a modern version of a Belgian “Grotto” or “cave” beer. [picture of ciney brown and mort subit in glasses] We also procured a few bottles of the infamous Westvleteren, a beer so famous it requires no label, and a favorite of beer snobs worldwide. We brought a bottle of all three styles (Blonde, 8, and 12) home to share with good friends, including some of our favorite drinking buddies, Mike and Elizabeth. We didn’t think Westvleteren fully lived up to the hype (for some, Westvleteren is akin to the holy grail), but they were definitely delicious.

While Brussels is a necessary stop on any beer lover’s journey, a day trip to Bruges was our favorite part of the trip (only an hour by train, and $48 round trip—a steal considering Bruges is one of the most breathtaking places we’ve ever seen). The Brugse Zot brewery was one of the more memorable stops on our tour de beer. Sure, it’s a standard tourist stop, but sometimes you should follow the wisdom of the crowds. This small operation is the only active brewery in Bruges, and you can view the entire city from its rooftop. After a tour around the facilities, you are rewarded with a hearty pour of the Brugse Zot Blonde, and a seat in the romantic garden outside the brewery. The temperature the day we visited was 92° F, so the refreshing coriander and orange finish of this beer was a welcome treat.

Overall, the trip reminded us that while Blue Moon tastes better than Bud, at the end of the day it really can’t compare to a freshly poured glass of Sterkens White, or a Cantillon Gueuze straight from the brewer’s hands.

DC favorite Jose Andres and Feran Adria, the famed chef of El Bulli, will teach a course in culinary physics at Harvard.

Register your BGR VIP card for a chance to win Bon Jovi tickets from BGR, the offical backstage caterer of the show.

Check out this gorgeous roasted cherry tomato tart from Adventures in Shaw.

Pete Bakes makes chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches.

The Rammy nominees have been announced; did your favorites get a nod?

In between last year’s Burger Bracket and this year’s Cupcake Cup, Washingtonian’s Best Bites Blog put together something they called the Pizza Pool.  They pit thirty-two DC-area restaurants who serve up pizza as one of their main menu items against one another.  The goal?  Settle once and for all the question of who’s got the best slice (jumbo or otherwise) in Washington.

As you might expect, their brackets didn’t exactly put the question to bed.  Like always in these online ballots, the establishments with the biggest email lists (usually the most corporate competitors) and the folks with the most rabid following tended to overshadow those who simply turn out quality pizza without the fanfare.  And it’s a pretty safe bet that most people who voted didn’t bother to go out and sample every competitor before picking their winner.

But I digress.  Regardless of who ultimately won the Pizza Pool (it was Flippin’ Pizza, by the way), questions of ultimate pizza mastery remain.  And for those of us in Alexandria, they’re going to get a lot harder to answer in the next year.

After 27 years, Bugsy’s is about to get some real competition on King Street. (more…)

Every relationship has celebrated milestones. Like getting brunch together after dancing it up at 80s night, few things cement the “this is getting serious” step like the first trip away together. Most couples choose a sunny, romantic destination. Mike and I? We went to Hungary. In October. Okay so maybe Budapest isn’t everyone’s first idea of a romantic city but whatever. Mike and I are goofy like that.  

Photo courtesy of Love Apples

Our visit wasn’t driven by culinary travel, but we ended up having some of our favorite food-related experiences during the trip. Who would have guessed a tiny eastern European country could deliver a six-foot tall Michael Jackson statue made out of white chocolate? Or a wine destination with what might be the best Wine Goggled name on the planet?  

Gerbaud –  Thanks in part to its downriver Danube proximity to Vienna, Budapest has a striking coffee and pastry culture often celebrated in soaring salons fit for Marie Antoinette. Open since 1858, Gerbaud is the grande dame of Budapest salons. The light-filled salon was painstakingly restored in 1997 to look regally ancient. Gleaming floors lead our eyes up to a brillaint counterop filled with sugary delights. Taking a seat in the salon, we sat back as brisk waitresses flitted between tiny cafe tables with trays of pastel colored goodies and strong coffee. It was the perfect way to fight off jet lagg and ease into our vacation. 

Szabo Marzipan Museum – A little way down the Danube from Budapest is a village known as Szentendre. This little village might be in guide books recommending a scenic getaway into an artists village, a chance to stroll through a small Hungarian community and take in tiny shops and ancient churches. All of these things are true but they don’t shout the town’s biggest feature from the rooftops: The Szabo Marzipan Museum. Could it be true? An entire museum with all of its displays intricately carved from almond paste? So true and so bizarre. Especially considering the chosen topics – countless classic Disney characters vied for attention next to Hungarian landmarks. But the creme de la marzipan had to be the borderline creepy Michael Jackson. Standing at life-size attention and captured during the King of Pop’s miltary-esque costume phase ,the piece is just strange. Deliciously strange.

The Valley of Beautiful Women and the Most Hilariously Formal Restaurant I’ve Ever Visted after the jump. (more…)

French Twist DC wants to get you ready for Macaroon Day
Sign of the Whale, one of the key locations in the Connecticut Ave Herpes Triangle, has moved to Connecticut Ave and the Madhatter has re-opened with new management. My 22-year old self is glad to have this info. My present day Twirtysomething self wonders if anyone who reads a DC food blog would go to either of those places.
DCist gives us the buzz (ha!) about the White house beekeeper and tosses in a shout out for urban bee keeping in the process. 
Againn is opening a second location in Rockville. 

Interested in an organic wine tasting?

Did you know there is a Ryan Adams-themed pizza joint in North Carolina?

Not to be outdone by my recent whining about Mexican food in DC, one brave DCist soul tries a bunch of taquerias in search of DC’s best taco. The suggestions in the comments section are worth a visit. 
What is the first sign of spring in the city? Dining al fresco.  
Best Documentary Oscar winners created a sting operation on Hump, a restaurant in Santa Monica found to be serving whale.  

This year’s Arlington Reads program focuses on sustainable food.

Jane Black spills the beans on underground (and we don’t mean in the metro) dining in DC. 
DC Wrapped Dates gives a thorough review of Four Sisters
K Street Kate reports Serendipity 3 will open in the old Nathan’s location in Georgetown. 
Get the butter, ya’ll! Paula Deen’s sons are launching a food magazine for men. I’m all for another food magazine in the marketplace but suggesting that men have a different way of cooking strikes me as BS.

Okay, yes, finally we are reviewing 2 Amy’s Pizza. A DC favorite. A consistent #1 on many a pizza lover’s long lists of DC’s best. Should we issue anything less than a choir of angels trumpeting the awesomeness of 2 Amy’s, I fear we’ll have to outrun an angry pizza mob armed with torches, rotten tomatoes, and sloshing buckets of molten mozzarella. All of which has added up to making me ambivalent. Maybe I won’t like it. There are plenty of other great pizza options in DC like Piola or Pizzeria Paradiso. Maybe I don’t want to go along with the crowd, gawd. Plus, 2 Amy’s is like, so far awaaaaay and there is always a liiiiiiine.  

My hunger for a cripsy, cheesy pizza finally outwrestled my contrariness and we met up with our friends Jason and Amy and their adorable towheaded kids one Sunday morning. Although we showed up just a few minutes after the restaurant opened, we were told the wait was already up to 45 minutes.  We bellied up to the bar in the meantime, biding our time in the raucous dining room until a table opened up.


One of the questions in our Blogger Beat interview asked about the most bizarre things we’ve ever eaten.  Elizabeth’s answer came without a second thought: cuy.  For this week’s Travel Tuesday, we’re revisiting our trip to Peru, where Elizabeth made her peace with guinea pigs as entrees instead of pets.

The allure of Machu Picchu is a combination of its beauty and its relative isolation.  Of course, that means there really isn’t all that much besides the formerly lost civilization to plan a vacation around.  When Elizabeth learned about GlobeAware, an American voluntourism operation with a program in Peru, we knew we had found a solution that we could feel good about.  We’d spend a week in Peru, volunteering at an albergue in Cusco and visiting Machu Picchu while we were there.

We arrived in Cusco to a meal of quinoa-crusted fried chicken and a steaming mug of mate de coca. This tea, steeped from the leaves of the coca plant, is a natural remedy for the altitude sickness that invariably strikes new arrivals.  At an elevation of almost 11,000 feet, Cusco takes some getting used to.  Something as simple as walking up a flight of stairs can leave you winded (if you’re lucky).  The tea somehow soothes the nausea and headaches that come with the change in altitude.  It’s pretty much the polar opposite of cocaine, despite coming from the same plant.

Throughout the week, we enjoyed simple, homemade meals prepared for us by the full-time staff on site.  We got to experience local produce including a rainbow of potatoes and the strange granadilla. We found ourselves chanting along with a street vendor who passed through the neighborhood every day announcing his fresh produce: “Piña!  Papaya!” We even tried chicha frutillada, a drink made from fermented corn and strawberries that packs a sweet, boozy punch.

More about the maize and a few restaurant meals (including the cuy) after the jump. (more…)

Click on the image to go to our Google Map that locates all of the critics' picks for best restaurants in DC.

As promised, we’ve updated our Critics’ Picks map now that Washingtonian’s 100 Best Restaurants of 2010 is available online.  Sure, you’ve probably devoured their list already and mapped out your strategy to eat your way from beginning to end a la From Komi to Marvin.  But we don’t update our map until the list becomes available online.  That way, we can connect you to all of the write-ups for each named restaurant in one convenient location.

Since this was the first time we were updating one of the critics’ lists (instead of adding a new one), it presented us with the question of how to represent restaurants from the 2009 list that didn’t make the 2010 cut.  Take another look at the map above, and you’ll see red pushpins in addition to the markers and the ‘fork and knife’ graphics.  Each pushpin represents a restaurant that was only on the map because of its place on Washingtonian’s 2009 list.

And there was a surprisingly healthy turnover rate: twenty-six restaurants made their debut on the new list, replacing four closed locations and twenty-two more (each of whom was clearly the 101st best restaurant…right?).  As much as we may have hated to see some of our favorites fall off the list, it’s a testament to the strength of the region’s dining scene that so many legitimate contenders are out there.

After the jump, a list of those coming in and those heading out with some thoughts. (more…)

The changes that have altered the American restaurant scene over the last thirty years are staggering. No less staggering is the fact that going back those thirty years now lands us squarely in 1980.  I remember the 80s!

Along the way, our approach to ‘ethnic’ foods has undergone a significant shift of its own.  Just as we’ve come to value regional specialties and local ingredients in our own cooking, we’ve developed an appreciation for the fact that very few countries have a single national cuisine.  For me, that change is most noticeable in Italian restaurants.

Today, you’re far more likely to find an Italian restaurant focusing on the cuisine of Calabria or the seafood of Sicily than you are to find a one-size-fits-all red sauce joint.  It’s a mark of respect – we’re acknowledging that the various kingdoms and nation-states that eventually came together to form Italy had (and still have) their own culinary traditions and specialties.  But sometimes you just long for the classics: fettucine alfredo, insalata caprese, veal scallopine.

Sure, you could go to the Olive Garden to scratch that itch, but it’s far more fulfilling to seek out the real deal.  Thankfully, Washingtonians need only head into Old Town Alexandria to find the genuine article alive and well on King Street.  Landini Brothers has been owned and operated by the eponymous siblings and their children since 1979, and it shows through in everything.  Everything.

A taste of Italian-American tradition after the jump. (more…)

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