hook-and-ladderGenerally speaking, alcoholic beverages and putting out fires are a bad combination when attempted simultaneously.  But volunteer firefighter Rich Fleischer’s Hook & Ladder Brewing Company has found a much safer way to blend the two.  Based in Silver Spring, the craft brewer and his team (including his brother and business partner, Matt) are turning out kegs and cases of beers with names like Backdraft Brown, Ember Amber and Lighter while supporting burn treatment facilities in the areas where their beers are sold.

I had the opportunity to sample all of the above beers, as well as the Hook & Ladder Golden Lager, at our local Harris Teeter while shopping for Super Bowl supplies earlier this year.  Although I may not be able to tell you the difference between cascade hops and two-row malt, I can certainly tell you that these craft brews made an impression.  And when I heard about their “Penny in Every Pint” program, I was sold.  Since then, I’ve picked up a six pack of the Backdraft Brown on several occasions, and it’s been a hit every time.

Descriptions of the Hook & Ladder brews, where to find them, and how they give back after the jump. (more…)

Earlier this week, Endless Simmer’s New York-based coeditor Brendan Spiegel wrote an article for CHOW talking about the rise of upscale mobile dining options across the country, like New York’s Dessert Truck and LA’s Green Truck.  If you haven’t read it already, you should check it out.

When I finished reading it, I found myself thinking about last year’s eagerly welcomed expansion of DC’s vending license program for street food.  Although it has not yet resulted in anything quite as gourmet as some of the operations Spiegel talks about, it has definitely spawned at least one undisputed winner: Home Slice LLC’s On The Fly SmartKarts.  By offering fresh, high-quality food through partnerships with well-known local vendors in environmentally-friendly vehicles, these guys have managed to coalesce three desires of DC lunch crowds into a successful enterprise that has really taken off in less than a year.

Read all about it after the jump. (more…)

The dream finally became a reality for Mike and me last weekend: We went peach picking. The weather was perfect, the yellow peaches at Stribling Orchard were ripe and juicy. We picked peaches right off the branches for a few hours and even snuck a few samples right in the field with peach juice running down our forearms. Afterwards, we were able to top off the afternoon with a few glasses of wine at Naked Mountain Winery, where they have a gorgeous deck and pastoral view of the rolling Virginia countryside. At the end of the day we were relaxed, a little tanner and in possession of about 30 lbs of peaches.

Of course, the best part is finding new and fun ways to devour all these delicious peaches. Over the next couple of days, we’ll post the recipes we’ve tried and liked in case you go peach picking or simply bring home a fuzzy peach haul from the local market.

Peach-Opal Basil Lemonade

We’ve been wanting to try this drink recipe from John Ash’s From the Earth to the Table cookbook since we picked it up while wine tasting in Temecula last year.  It involves a few more steps than your basic frozen or pre-made lemonade but the combination of opal basil (an earthier, purple cousin of the more common sweet basil) and fresh fruit really drew us in. (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…)

The modest container garden continues to shock and amaze us! Mike and I enjoyed our first home grown produce of the season last night, straight from our itsy bitsy strawberry patch.

I’ve always been under the impression that strawberry plants need plenty of ground cover to produce any fruit. We  just picked these up on a lark to see how they’d do. Now that I can see how the strawberries took to the full sun on our deck, I wish we’d planted even more.  I doubt this year’s harvest will produce anything more than the occassional snack, but it’s fun to see them grow and ripen.

I have a lot of day dreams about a home with a yard. Right now we live on Capitol Hill in DC and we have a nice little deck, big enough for to have some friends over for a casual dinner and containers that can support herbs, fruit and flowers. We’re lucky to have it and try to take advantage of it as much as possible. Still… I yearn for a big backyard where I can really take advantage of the DC climate and grow some gorgeous things. I’m always telling Mike “One day, when we have a yard we’ll plant….” fill in the blank. My promises have ranged from peach trees to apple trees to a full blown vegetable garden (hmm, all things we can eat. Coincidence?). This day dream now includes a strawberry patch. Nothing huge, just enough to make a couple of daiquiris for friends. (more…)