Food reading for the week

Two articles this past week make for good reading for the DC area, food obsessed:

1. Ethnic Groceries: Washington Post writer Emily Wax visits the ethnic food markets of suburban DC. She explores H-Mart (the Korean grocery store, most notable for its amazing varity of Kimchi). Dama Pastry and Cafe (with serves Ethiopian coffee and baked goods — and which I don’t think actually qualifies as an ethnic market), Yekta Supermarket, (a well-organized Iranian and Middle Eastern food bazaar. It’s in Maryland, so unfortunately I’ve never been.) and Halal Meat and Grocery (an Indian grocery and another Maryland find).

Unfortuately, the article leaves out my favorite market, Great Wall. This Vienna-based Chinese market has an excellent selection of Asian fruits and veggies (including the best lychees in the summer), a stand where the butcher will fillet a whole fish to order and all sorts of Chinese goods that I loved during my three years in Beijing but have never seen elsewhere. More on the whole fish later.

2. Raw Milk: The New Yorker covers the sudden burst of interest in raw, or unpastuerized, milk.  I’ve never had raw milk, so I can’t comment on the taste or fabled medicinal powers. I’m always up for an adventure, so I’d be willing to ish ecoli to try it.

I Won’t Be Growing Zucchini

tomato plant in my gardenOne of the things that most excited me about moving out of an apartment and buying a house was the prospect of planting a garden. After a few weeks of hemming and hawing over where to put the plants in the mess of a backyard we inherited from the previous owner, I finally planted my garden two weeks ago.

I’m proud to report that everything is still alive!  I planted tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, herbs (basil, rosemary, dill and cilantro) and three types of peppers. With the rain (and my bordering-on-obsessive watering), everything is looking perky.

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Discovery flies over my office

The space shuttle Discovery flies over my office in Arlington, Va.This isn’t related to my normal topic (food!), but the retiring space shuttle Discovery few over my office on its way to its final resting place at the Udvar-Hazy Center. I managed to snap one photo before it soared out of site. Read more about the suttle’s last flight.

I Know What I’m Drinking – Oysters and Strawberries

A friendly pint of oyster stout at Hank's Oyster Bar

It’s a good time to be an Alexandria resident who likes some novelty with her beer. Out in Virginia this week is my favorite Abita Strawberry Lager. I just picked up a six pack from Rick’s Wine and Gourmet, and I’m waiting for it to cool down in my freezer right now. Cool faster, beer!

Oysters, Beer and Charity

On tap over at our friendly neighborhood brewery, Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company, is the beer come charity project come history project: Revival Stout. In the Irish and British tradition, the beer is made by steeping Chesapeake Bay oyster shells in the brewing water to add mineral content, and then adding the oysters and their liquor to the brew during the boil.

Apparently, the oyster shells add a”briny” quality to the beer.  I can’t comment because I haven’t actually had the beer. It’s on tap at bars and restaurants around DC, but I was unable to find a central list. I’m better Hank’s Oyster Bar in Old Town has it. Update to come.

As for the charity part: 5% of sales from the beer go to benefit the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a non-profit based in Annapolis.  Save those cute, little oysters; have a beer.

Update: Thanks Hank’s Oyster Bar for the friendly pint. I hate to disappoint, but the oyster stout tastes like, um, a stout. Oh well.

It’s Asparagus Season!

Salmon, asparagus and lemon pasta

Delicious-ness in action.

Early spring is asparagus season. One never to pass up a bargain, I currently have two bundles of $1.99 asparagus in my refrigerator.

I’m a fan of just coating asparagus in olive oil, sprinkling it with some salt and sticking it under the broiler for a few minutes.  But if you want an actual recipe for your asparagus, here is my personal favorite.

It’s easy, delicious and stolen from Jamie Oliver. However, I have taken the liberty of de-English-ing this by removing any quirky phrases and  mention of the metric system.

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Peep Diorama Mania

UPDATE: Alas, my Peeps diorama didn’t win. But at least my Twitter account got a shout out on the Washington Post website. If you are curious, check my 5 seconds of fame here.



Some people fantasize about winning the lottery or a Nobel Prize. I dream of one day taking my place among the winners of the Washington Post peeps diorama contest.  I’ve been blown away by the top entries each year I’ve lived in DC.  This year was the first time I actually got around to entering the contest myself.

My husband and I tackled the royal wedding last weekend. He worked construction on a very accurate, mini version on Westminster Abbey.  I handled Peep styling and costume design. Of course as a blogger, I had to give a shout out to my favorite royal wedding Internet memes frowning flower girl and Princess Beatrice’s horrible hat.

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Tomato Soup Love

bowl of homemade tomato soup

Tomatoes, you may taste bitter, but you are sweet to me.

It’s Valentine’s Day, so it’s time for some bad love-related puns to express my adoration of this recipe.

 Moosewood tomato soup, I think you are soup-er. Nothing warms my heart like a bowl of you. I am over the spoon for you, and I will forever be bowl-ed over by your love.

This recipe is great because it’s so quick and easy. Yet, it’s so rich that it tastes like it cooked for hours.

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How to Get Kicked Off of Top Chef

Someone will have to "pack their knives and go."

I’m watching Top Chef again. Just like last time, I’m moaning that every season is the same. Apparently, the chef-testants don’t watch the previous seasons, because this year — just like all the rest — several have broken the show’s cardinal rules.

In honor of the show I love to hate, here are the top things I’ve learned to never do on Top Chef.

On Top Chef, never, ever:

10. Volunteer to be front of the house during the restaurant wars episode. Yeah, the other cheftestants told you that you are a combination of charming and efficient — making you perfect for the job. That’s because they are smarter than you and know this role is the kiss of death.

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Chronicles of Adulthood: I broke down and bought napkins

Martha Stewart embroidered fruit napkins: Please shoot me if I ever make these.

These days, like anyone plowing towards 30, I’ve gotten a lot of adulthood thrown at me in the last few months: a wedding, a house and a lot of new bills to pay. On top of that, I’ve been abandoning my hand-me-down collection of furniture and kitchen supplies. Thanks to the wedding registry, I now own a lot of the typical trappings of adulthood: matching towels, two changes of sheets and a complete set of silverware. Life does feel more official when you don’t have to drink wine out of coffee mugs and make scrambled eggs in a wok.

But despite the array of appliances and dinnerware that hid in my cabinets, I still didn’t have one thing that most normal homemakers own: napkins. Why buy napkins when paper towels do double duty as mouth/hand wipes and counter top cleaners? Napkins seemed excessive, expensive and bad for the environment. But more than that, refusing to buy napkins was my one last hold out from the just-out-of-college days when I used to make toast in a frying pan.

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What’s Taking So Long? Is it Yelp’s Fault?

People bashed us on Yelp

The Yelp button no one wants. Thanks Photoshop!

I have done a lot of complaining both online (here and here) and offline about restaurants that take way too long to open. Every time the news breaks that a new bar, restaurant, coffee shop etc. is coming to Alexandria, the owner sets an approximate opening date. “Before Christmas,” they say. Or “early spring,” another promises. The store front is renovated, the “help wanted” sign goes up, everything appears to be ready…. but why is it not open!? The promised opening flies by and anticipation turns into irritation.

I proposing a theory. I know nothing about running a restaurant, but it’s America, and I can spout off my unfounded ideas if I want to.

I’m blaming it on Yelp. The website and mobile app has alerted me to countless new dining options, weened me off guidebooks and helped this chronically indecisive diner figure out what to order. However, I now think it’s time for it to shoulder some blame.

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