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No Longer the Runaway Chef Peter Chang – To Appear at Sips & Suppers

Jordan Wright
January 14, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

Chef Peter Chang

Chef Peter Chang

One of the featured chefs for the Sips & Suppers dinners coming up next week is Peter Chang – an elusive chef known for ditching restaurant kitchens like a discardable cell phone.  At last he has found in another accomplished chef, Gen Lee, the perfect partner to build an empire.  The duo has already opened six successful restaurants around Virginia, with Arlington scheduled to open early February and another outpost in Rockville in March.

I’ve been a lucky duck to sample his cuisine twice in my life – once at a sumptuous banquet when he was the executive chef at DC’s Chinese Embassy in the 90’s, though I wasn’t aware he was the chef that oversaw the dozens of dishes offered at that lavish banquet.  Years later on a hot tip I sought out his cooking at an obscure Chinese restaurant in a strip mall at the corner of Duke and Van Dorn in Alexandria.

Chang doesn’t dumb down his food for American palates.  And it’s not for the faint of heart.  As I recall the dish was the hottest, saltiest and most addictive chili pepper chicken I’d ever experienced.  I have never forgotten it.  By the time I planned on a return visit, he had scampered off for parts unknown leaving a trail of desperate fanatics in his wake.

Chang, who speaks no English, allows Gen Lee to act as his spokesperson.  The two have cooked together for many years.

Whisk and Quill - Do you see everything in a yin/yang balance? 

Gen Lee – Yes.  It’s always going to be like that for us.  In Sichuan Province it is very hot and wet and filled with trees.  People who live there have to eat a lot of spicy food that’s why they use the Sichuan peppers.  

Does Peter cook in one of the VA restaurants now?  

Not on a daily basis.  He cooks for parties and special events, but he also checks on every restaurant on a weekly basis.  He’s very strict about that.  I can’t tell you which restaurant he is cooking in at any given time, but he’s always cooking and he’s always training his cooks to get it right.  We’re happy if its 90% right, because our recipes are very, very difficult.  We don’t use sauce.  For ten years when Peter and I worked as corporate chefs on a riverboat on the Yangtze River, we did the real, real Sichuan there.

How young was Peter when he first started cooking?  

He was in high school.  He always knew he wanted to cook and he went to cooking school at 18.  He always watched his grandma cooking and helped her make lots of vegetarian dishes.  You know, we don’t use much meat, but lots of vegetables mushrooms and such.

Does Peter listen to music when he’s cooking? 

 No, it’s very difficult.  Everything is very quick.  There are 20 different spices – different ones for different dishes – and it all happens fast.

What are some of the restaurants’ signature dishes?

The cumin lamb chops and bamboo fish, and everyone orders the dry-fried eggplant cut like steak fries.

Would you say your dishes are classic Sichuan?

Yes, it’s his specialty.  But, for example, they don’t use lamb chops in China and the difference is the ingredients are better quality here.

Lately American chefs are using Asian ingredients in fusion cuisine and mixing things up.  Where do you see this going?

A lot of chefs try it using French techniques.  They are not using the real Chinese techniques and that worries me.  These chefs are not Chinese.  They are Hispanic or Korean.  There are only a handful of real Chinese chefs here in America.

Chinese food has been losing favor to Thai and Korean in the past decade or so.  Do you hope to bring back Chinese food to its earlier popularity?

Our dream is to bring back the real Chinese food, not just to make money.  In a few years we know we can retire, but it’s not about that.  Right now we have six restaurants.  Already in our Richmond restaurant we are doing 500-600 a day.  It’s like a war zone with like 100 people in line every day.

Will you be opening in the Northern Virginia area soon?

Yes, we will have two more restaurants – – one in Arlington and soon after in Rockville.

This interview was conducted, edited and condensed by Jordan Wright. 

Dozens of prestigious local, national and world-renowned chefs will prepare the Sips & Suppers dinners on Sunday, January 25th.  A separate evening of chef’s treats and cocktails takes place on Saturday, January 24th.  Expect appearances by Joan Nathan, Jose Andres and Alice Waters.  For further information and to purchase tickets to the fundraiser for Martha’s Table and DC Central Kitchen visit www.sips2015.eventbrite.com and www.suppers2015.eventbrite.com.

Nibbles and Sips Around Town – December 19, 2014

Jordan Wright
December 19, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

Photo credit – Jordan Wright

City Perch and iPic Provides a Total Entertainment Experience at Pike & Rose, Chef Switcheroo at Bibiana and Mio, Chris Pearmund’s New Wine-Opoly – Are You Smarter Than a Sommelier?, Hard Cider and Cool Notes at Iota, New Winter Menu at NGA’s Garden Café

City Perch and iPic – Roll the Credits!

Located in the Pike & Rose shopping destination in North Bethesda (Make that Rockville if you want to find it on MapQuest) iPic the latest innovation for moviegoers.  The cutting edge theater concept takes it to a whole new level with features like plush leather recliners operating with the touch of a button and personal pillows and blankets.  This movie theater combines the coziness of a home theater with the luxury of upscale dining.  No need to stand in line for food or drink.  A seat-side button beckons a server to take your order.

Sherry Yard at City Perch with some of her famous chocolate chip cookies

Sherry Yard at City Perch with her creme puffs

The theater is on the same level as City Perch restaurant and both the iPicExpress menu, called ‘dining in the dark” and the more gourmet City Perch restaurant menu, have been conceptualized by Sherry Yard, the James Beard Foundation recognized pastry chef, who has worked alongside Wolfgang Puck for many years.

City Perch Executive Chef Matt Baker hams it up on opening night

City Perch Executive Chef Matt Baker hams it up on opening night

City Perch Executive Chef Matt Baker, formerly of The Occidental, helms the state-of-the-art kitchen while noted Mixologist and Master Sommelier, Adam Seger, formerly of Per Se, has designed the wine and cocktail program.  Try his new “Roll in the Hay” seasonal cocktail made with Belle Isle Moonshine and Laird & Company Apple Brandy and roll the credits, please.

Mio and Bibiana Get New Chefs 

Roberto Hernandez is the new Executive Chef at Mio, the place for Latin American cuisine that keeps its emphasis on the classic dishes of Puerto Rico.

Mio Executive Chef, Roberto Hernandez makes the mofungo tableside

Mio Executive Chef, Roberto Hernandez makes the mofungo tableside

Hernandez likes to blend modern with rustic.  His mofongo, made tableside, is so authentic I thought I heard Jennifer Lopez singing “Plenarriquena”!  Try the newly instituted Saturday brunch.

Seviches at Mio

Seviches at Mio

And in other switcheroos Nick Stephanelli leaves Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca to open his own spot.  Expect Jake Addeo to bring his sophisticated Italian cuisine to the popular New York Avenue restaurant.

Test Your Virginia Wine Savvy with Wine-opoly

Working with Vineyard Manager DeAnna D’Attilo, Chris Pearmund of Pearmund Cellars has come up with a challenging game for all you winos out there.  They call it Wine-Opoly and 22 Virginia wineries have signed on to join in the fun.  Using “deed cards” containing information on each of the wineries, and game cards with details on local viticulture and oenology, the board game aims to promote the Virginia wine industry.  Here’s how it works.  Railroads are wine trails and the “Go To Jail” card is “Go To Rehab”, which would be worse than jail, because as everybody knows, you can’t bail yourself out of rehab.  Hot off the press (printing, not wine), you can snag one at Pearmund and participating VA wineries. www.PearmundCellars.com

Hard Cider and Cool Notes at Iota 

Last month I dropped into Iota in Clarendon to hear a band I’d been following for awhile.  Grownup Noise is a quirky, smart, tuneful group out of Cambridge, MA who write their own exquisitely melodic songs.  Boston Herald’s Music Critic Jeff Gottlieb calls their latest album, The Problem with Living in the Moment, “a suite” for its sweeping orchestration.  In my playbook they stand out as accomplished musicians in their own right, but they’re also nice guys, articulate and kindhearted, and a beautiful Asian kickass female drummer.  Though they had originally been billed as the “B” act the headliners showed up with only two musicians giving Grownup Noise the status they deserve.  Manna to their fans.  Here’s the video for their single “Astronomy as Therapy” which manages to blend banjo sound with gorgeous violin strains.  It puts me in mind of the soundtrack from On Cold Mountain.

Grownup Noise at the Iota

Grownup Noise at the Iota

In the cozy brick-walled club I began to read over the bar menu and noticed a few hard ciders.  I went with Bold Rock Hard Cider’s “Virginia Draft”, a golden-hued cider on the sweeter side from a Virginia company who now claims seven varieties, from dry to sweet to full-bodied.   Instantly the crisp, clean apple taste recollected my first bottle of hard cider at the now-shuttered Les Halles.  A chain of French restaurants based in New York City, it’s where Anthony Bourdain once ruled the kitchen early in his career.

Bold Rock Hard Cider - Virginia Draft

Bold Rock Hard Cider – Virginia Draft

On that sunny day we were there to watch the French waiter races, a tradition that had started at Dominique’s famously posh celebrity haunt in DC and now continues with Paul bakery further down Pennsylvania Avenue.  In any case, I believe I was hooked on cider that day.  It’s funny how a flavor memory can bring up the people, the place and the moment in time when you had a palate epiphany.  Back then hard cider wasn’t a common beverage and this was a French cider.  I didn’t see it on any bar lists, and soon forgot about it.

Scallop Crudo  and Salt Roasted and Pickled Beets with House Made Goat Milk Ricotta

Scallop Crudo and Salt Roasted and Pickled Beets with House Made Goat Milk Ricotta

Fast forward to a few years ago, a cosmic blip in the beverage industry, when hard cider burst upon the scene.  Nowadays there are quite a few cideries, even breweries, dabbling in the production of these delicious, low-alcohol, apple-based fermented drinks and many of them are in Virginia where the apple is king.  N. B.  They are not “brewed” as beer is.  They are “fermented”.  I am not a physicist.

Pan Seared Striped Bass with Roasted Pumpkin and Cranberry Bean-Quinoa Pilaf, Silk Road Chutney, Shagbark Hickory Syrup and Pumpkin Seed Oil and Compressed Beef Short Rib, Black Kale, Mushroom Confit and Celery Root Purée

Pan Seared Striped Bass with Roasted Pumpkin and Cranberry Bean-Quinoa Pilaf, Silk Road Chutney, Shagbark Hickory Syrup and Pumpkin Seed Oil and Compressed Beef Short Rib, Black Kale, Mushroom Confit and Celery Root Purée

At National Geographic’s farm-to-table dinner last week, Albemarle CiderWorks “Red Hill” cider was paired with scallop crudo on Executive Chef Matthew Crudder’s 5-course dinner.  The delicately dry cider is made with Winesap and Pippin apples, the perfect match for the chilled raw mollusk.  Think Chardonnay as a reference point.  And where’s that Christmas ham?

Spiced Banana Cake and Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Hazelnut Praline Powder, Bananas Foster Gel and Dark Chocolate Sauce

Spiced Banana Cake and Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Hazelnut Praline Powder, Bananas Foster Gel and Dark Chocolate Sauce

Garden Café at the National Gallery of Art 

Michel Richard has done it again!  The winter menu he has created for the Garden Café at the National Gallery of Art is absolutely divine!

Let’s face it.  Most of us can’t afford to eat at Central Michel Richard, the chef’s pricey Pennsylvania Avenue outpost.  But in the beautiful fountain-graced café, a stone’s throw from the Degas exhibit, you’ll find his latest menu has echoes of the dishes he turns out in his American-with-a-French twist restaurant.

Pumpkin Bisque at the Garden Cafe – Roasted Fennel with Apples and Cranberries Salad – Roasted Buttermut Squash with Grains and Brussels Sprouts

Designed to dovetail with the Degas exhibit, this menu is all French and keeps winter away with crusty olive fougasse; pumpkin bisque with toasted pumpkin seeds; roasted fennel with pears and cranberries; arugula salad with roasted beets, apples, pecans and champagne vinaigrette; and roasted butternut squash with Brussels sprouts.  And that’s just the beginning.   An entrée of braised Cornish hen with roasted lemons beckons, and crème brulee with fresh berries finishes it off nicely.  Find me another menu in town as fabulous as this at $20.75 for all you can eat.  I dare you!

Oh, and did I mention Richard was recently conferred with the insignia of Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur?  That officially puts him in the pantheon of the Greatest French Chefs ever!  Okay, Michel.  You may now rest on your laurels.

Star Chefs Celebrates Our Best Chefs 

Last week I mentioned the upcoming StarChefsRising Stars” event was going to be stellar.  And it was.  Award winners were in great spirits, especially since they partied together the night before.

Mixologist Bryan Tetorakis of Rogue 24 garnishes his cocktails – Rising Stars Gala – The team from The Rock Barn – Benjamin Thompson at center

Emceeing the fabulous event was Chef/Owner of Bayou Bakery and host of Travel Channel‘s “American Grilled”, David Guas, he of the Elvis sideburns. Here are a few photos from the gala taken at Union Market’s hip warehouse event space, Dock5.

Flatbread Pizza – Fast and Fabulous at Pizza Vinoteca 

These days, watching your carb intake has become more than just a diet regime.  Unless you’re a long distance runner or cross trainer you might be trying to keep those flour-filled ingredients in check.  But take pizza out of the equation?  That dog don’t hunt, as we say down South.

Prepping the pie

Prepping the pie

This newest addition to the laidback Ballston scene, Pizza Vinoteca, has taken the guilt out of pizza by making all of their pies – not pies.  That is to say they’re all made in flatbread style in a custom-designed Jade Range grill.  The monster infrared grill features 16 burners that climb to a raging 900 degrees, cranking out pizzas in less than five minutes.  Three woodchip smoke boxes conspire to lend a nice char and crave-able smoky flavor.

Wild Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Leek flatbread Pizza

Wild Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Leek flatbread Pizza

These super-thin pizzas come in a large variety of combinations.  And even though the place boasts entrees, antipasti, salads, 38 world-sourced affordable wines by the glass, plenty of local craft beers and gelati, we are here for the P-I-Z-Z-A!

Prosciutto with Mozzarella and Arugula

Prosciutto with Mozzarella and Arugula

Divided into two categories, “Classic” and “Crafted”, our tasters fell hard for the roasted wild mushroom with goat cheese and leeks, and another made with jowlciale (tender pork cheeks), chili pesto and toasted pistachios.  The tarte flambée (good, but oh so rich) was better left for athletes-in-training.  With a communal table that seats 18, it’s a fun place for groups too.

Nibbles and Sips Around Town – December 9, 2014

Jordan Wright
December 9, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
 

Ben Thompson of The Rock Barn with assorted charcuterie

Ben Thompson of The Rock Barn with assorted charcuterie

Mark your calendars now for one of DC’s best dining events.  On December 16th the 2014 StarChefs Washington DC area Rising Stars Gala will be at Dock 5 at Union Market.  There’s even a special VIP reception where swells can sip champagne and nibble on Petrossian caviar before the awards ceremony and tasting gala dinner.  The celebration will feature local foods, chefs, bartenders, roasters, brewers, artisans and sommeliers.

The fundraiser for DC Central Kitchen will be hosted by Bryan Voltaggio former Top Chef and Top Chef Master finalist and Chef/Owner of Volt, Range, Lunchbox, Family Meal and Aggio.  Co-Hosts are Jason Alley of Comfort, Bertrand Chemel of 2941, Nadine Brown of Charlie Parker Steak, Chris Ford of Range, Stefan Trummer of Trummer’s on Main, Nick Stefanelli of Bibiano and Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya.  The winning chefs will prepare all the food on this fabulous night and I will be there.  Will you?  For tickets and information visit www.starchefs.com/risingstars.

Phillip Perrow and Caleb Shriver of Dutch & Co.

Phillip Perrow and Caleb Shriver of Dutch & Co.

Drum roll, please!!!  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you DC’s newest culinary royalty.

DC Chefs

Kyle Bailey of The Arsenal at Bluejacket  – Pork Loin, Chanterelles, Asian Pears, Red Quinoa, and Pecans

Mike Friedman of Red HenCavatelli, Heirloon Squash, Mushrooms, and Sage

Matthew McGhee of RANGE - Octopus, Lentils, Wheat Berries, and Pistachio

Joe Palma of Bourbon SteakFluke Crudo, Furikake, Golden Beets, Herb Jus, Baby Turnips, and White Shoyu

Aaron Silverman of Rose’s LuxuryPork Sausage and Habanero-Lychee Salad

Johnny Spero of minibarAustralian Lamb, Cucumbers, Whey, and Dill 

Beef Tartare from Lee Gregory and Thomas Leggett of The Roosevelt

Beef Tartare from Lee Gregory and Thomas Leggett of The Roosevelt

Virginia Chefs

Ian Boden of The ShackPretzel Gemelli, Virginia Ham, and Mustard Sauce

Austin Fausett of Trummer’s on MainDuck, Foie Gras, Popcorn, Wild Rice, and Balsamic Reduction

Lee Gregory of The RooseveltWagyu Tartare, Egg, Squid Ink Bread, and Pickled Watermelon

Phillip Perrow and Caleb Shriver of Dutch & Company - Rye Perfect Egg, Cured Salmon, Quinoa, and Cumin Yogurt

Joe Sparatta of HeritageFlounder, Smoked Potatoes, Spinach, and Brown Butter

Maryland Chefs

George Marsh of Parts & Labor - Lebanon Bologna

Graeme Ritchie of Volt - Wagyu Short Rib, Malt, and Salsify

Community Chef

Mike Isabella of KapnosAustralian Lamb with Grain Salad

Concept Chef

Nathan Anda of Red ApronTête de Pho

Pastry Chef Giane Cavaliere of Rogue 24

Pastry Chef Giane Cavaliere of Rogue 24

DC Pastry Chef

Giane Cavaliere of Rogue 24 -Sour Cherries, Valrhona Chocolate, Cola and Pistachios

Maryland Pastry Chef

Sarah Malphrus of Woodberry KitchenButtermilk Sorbet, Oat Granola, Sorghum and Peaches

Restaurateur

Derek Brown of Columbia Room, Eat The Rich, Mockingbird Hill, The Passenger and Southern Efficiency - Oloroso Float

DC Artisans

Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey of 3 Stars Brewing CompanySouthern Belle Imperial Brown Ale

Austin Fausett of Trummer’s on Main - Duck, Foie Gras, Popcorn, Wild Rice, and Balsamic Reduction

Austin Fausett of Trummer’s on Main – Duck, Foie Gras, Popcorn, Wild Rice, and Balsamic Reduction

Virginia Artisans

Evrim Dogu of Sub Rosa BakeryRosemary Sea Salt Flatbread

Benjamin Thompson of The Rock BarnPickled Okra Dog and Assorted Charcuterie

Maryland Artisans

Jay Caragay of Spro Coffee - French Press Ethiopian Lekepipto

Bartender

Bryan Tetorakis of Rogue 24The Martyr

DC Sommeliers

Brent Kroll of Neighborhood Restaurant GroupPairings with winners’ dishes

Julian Mayor of Bourbon Steak - Pairings with winners’ dishes

Maryland Sommelier

Julie Dalton of Wit and WisdomPairings with winners’ dishes

Host Chef - Franck Loquet of iCi Urban Bistro - VIP reception – Petrossian Caviar 

See you there!

Turning Up the Heat with Richard Sandoval with a Nod to Shakira

Jordan Wright
December 2, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

 

World-renowned chef and international restaurateur Richard Sandoval has penned his latest cookbook, New Latin Flavors – Hot Dishes, Cool Drinks (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) just in time to spice up the holiday season.  Most of you will be familiar with his DC Latin/Asian fusion restaurants Zengo, Masa 14, El Centro D. F., but also Ambar with its flavor-forward Balkan dishes, La Sandia in Tyson’s Corner, or the chic, sleek Toro Toro, a churrascaria that opened downtown this April.  With thirty-eight successful restaurants worldwide from Dubai to Paris and New York to Mexico, Sandoval’s empire is a testimonial to his delicious contemporary Latin cooking.

Richard Sandoval serving up churrasco at Toro Toro - Photo credit  Jordan Wrigh

Richard Sandoval serving up churrasco at Toro Toro – Photo credit Jordan Wright

In his fifth cookbook Sandoval has given us a collection of 125 inspired recipes that draw from the rich culinary traditions of Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and Argentina.  Gorgeous photographs from Saveur photographer Penny De Los Santos grace the pages and highlight the mouth-watering recipes.  For the first time Sandoval has tailored a cookbook expressly for the home cook spanning his repertoire of quesadillas, ceviches, arepas and enchiladas plus delicious Latin-inspired cocktails.  Think tequila, mescal, cachaça, rum and pisco.  Do you feel a party coming on?

Whisk and Quill caught up with Sandoval after he had dodged a blizzard in Denver to get to his DC book launch.

Whisk and Quill – What direction do you think food is going in today? 

Sandoval – I think after the recession people’s ways of eating have changed dramatically.  The last ten years it went very forward with all these molecular restaurants.  I wanted to go retro.  You know, back to our roots, back to comfort food and local ingredients, to make people feel comfortable again.

Would you agree that some of the best dishes from the past have been ruined by modernization?  Although now I see more chefs returning to the classics but putting their own spin on it.

Absolutely!  That’s always been my approach.  A lot of my Latin cooking started with my grandmother in her kitchen.  I would take dishes, like the mole, and interpret them in my way.  I took the roots of these recipes and kept them the way they were meant to be.  

What are your favorite ingredients? 

I’ve always loved chiles and you’ll always see chiles in my cooking.  But as far as cuisines, in the past three or four years I’ve been doing more Peruvian.  I love it.  And I love Thai food.  I’ll be opening a restaurant in mid-January at the new City Center here in DC.  It’s called Mango Tree.  We brought a chef from Bangkok who worked at one of the other Mango Tree restaurants.  I plan to take the roots of their cuisine, tweaking it a little bit as far as my flavor profile and presentation, but leaving the core as it is, maybe just changing the heat level and the balance.  I’m incredibly excited.  The restaurant already exists in London and Bangkok and Dubai.  It’s classic Thai.  I’ll just be readjusting it to what I do.  

How do you begin to create a fusion dish?  Do you start with a single ingredient or do you use your palate’s imagination? 

I start with a single dish.  The first fusion restaurant I did was Zengo, and Zengo means ‘give and take, back and forth’ in Japanese.  It was two chefs, two cultures.  First I would do a Latin dish.  I hired an Asian chef to work with me and I would give it to him and he would ‘Asianize’ it.  Then he would create an Asian dish and give it to me and I would ‘Latinize’ it.  It’s two chefs collaborating.  It wasn’t just me reinventing Asian, or what I thought it was.  This way it made more sense to me.  

Why is this book important to you? 

When had my first Mexican restaurant twenty years ago, it was doing modern Mexican cuisine – – with more forward thinking.  In this book I went retro with more traditional food and more comfort food.  It’s very accessible to the home cook.  It was very important to me to make sure that when people buy this book, they see it’s about having fun, that it’s not overly complicated where people would look at a recipe and say, ‘Ohmygod, I’ve got to go to Williams Sonoma to get the equipment and will I be able to find the ingredients?’  I wanted to be sure I made it very accessible and very fun.  

Who would you most like to dine with living or dead? 

I’ve always been very intrigued by Nelson Mandela.  How someone can spend so much time in jail and then be able to come out and forgive.  Most people would not be able to let go of what happened to them.  He just kept moving on with his life and changed his country with his strong spirit and by sharing his ideas.

What if I asked you to name a woman? 

Wow!  I’ve always liked Shakira!  She’s a beautiful woman and a great artist and I love her music.

Maybe she could sing to you. 

I don’t think her husband would appreciate that!

We’re fantasizing here. 

Okay, I could cook for her and she could sing to me.

Here are a few recipes to spice up any holiday party.

PONCHE Striped Bass Tiradito Grilled Tostada with Beef Salpicón
  • 1/2 cup (2.0 g) dried hibiscus flowers
  • (jamaica)
  • One 3-inch (7.5-cm) cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (130 g) tamarind pulp, broken
  • into pieces (see Notes)
  • Two 4-inch (10-cm) pieces fresh or
  • frozen sugarcane, peeled and cut into
  • 12 sticks (see Notes; optional)
  • 24 fresh or drained bottled tejocotes
  • (see Notes)
  • 2 ripe guavas, cut into 12 wedges
  • (see Notes)
  • One 375-ml bottle (1. cups) 100%
  • agave tequila, brandy, or light rum
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) orange-flavored liqueur,
  • such as Grand Marnier
  • 12 pitted dried plums

The Mexican warm fruit punch of the holiday season, ponche is sometimes nothing more than spiced syrup with booze. My family recipe is better, and infused with the tropical flavors of hibiscus and tamarind.

Serves 10 to 12

[1] Bring 2. quarts (2.5 L) water to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan over high heat. Remove it from the heat and add the hibiscus flowers and cinnamon stick. Let them stand for 5 minutes. Add the sugar and tamarind and bring them to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often to break up the tamarind, for 5 minutes. Strain the liquid into a large heatproof bowl, pressing hard on the solids; discard the solids.

[2] Return the liquid to the pot. Add the sugarcane, if using, and bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook the liquid at a brisk simmer for 5 minutes. Strain it again to remove any tamarind debris.

[3] Return the tea to the pot and add the tejocotes and guavas. Simmer until the guavas are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tequila and liqueur and simmer just until the mixture is hot. Remove it from the heat, add the plums, and let them stand for 5 minutes. (Do not add them earlier or they will get too soft.)

[4] To serve, return the pot to very low heat to keep the ponche warm. Ladle the ponche into mugs, adding the fruits to each serving. Serve it hot. Notes You can substitute 1⁄3 cup (75 ml) tamarind concentrate for the tamarind pulp. If neither is available, use . cup (120 ml) fresh lemon juice. Fresh or frozen sugarcane is available at Latin groceries and large supermarkets, and is often sold peeled. If the thick skin needs to be removed, use a large knife to chop the cane into manageable 4-inch (10-cm) lengths. Stand the pieces on end to cut away the peel. Cut the sugarcane lengthwise into thick sticks.  Tejocote is a small round stone fruit (that is, with a large seed in the center).  It is sold fresh at Mexican groceries around Christmas time, and in jars year-round.Kumquats or crabapples are good substitutes because they are similar in size to tejocotes. You may want to alert your guests that the tejocote seeds can be spit out.  Pineapple guava, about the size of a large lime, is the most widely available variety around Christmastime. If it is not available, substitute about one-quarter of a pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into bite-size pieces.  Goya, the leading Latin food product manufacturer, sells a nonalcoholic ponche in a jar with enough tejocotes, sugarcane sticks, and guavas for this recipe.  Drain and discard the liquid—you really just want the fruit.  Leave the tejocotes intact, but cut the sticks and guavas as needed to yield twelve pieces of each.

with Ponzu, App le & Radish Tiradito de lubina rayada con salsa ponzu, manzana y rábano

  • 1/2  Granny Smith apple, peeled
  • 2 large radishes, trimmed
  • 14 ounces (400 g) skinless striped
  • bass, cut on a diagonal into .-inch
  • (6-mm) slices
  • 1Ž2  cup (120 ml) Ponzu, homemade
  • (page 48) or store-bought, chilled
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • Sriracha, for serving

Tiradito is the South American version of ceviche, and it often has Asian influences, such as the ponzu in this recipe. It is one of the lightest (and quickest) first courses you’ll ever make, yet at the same time, it is one of the most flavorful. There are many good brands for sale, but it is also easy to make your own (page 48), and it is worth the minimal effort for this recipe, where it plays such a big role.

Serves 4
[1] Just before serving, use a V-slicer or mandoline to cut the apple and radishes into julienne. (You can also use a chef’s knife.) Combine them in a small bowl.

[2] For each serving, fan the bass on a chilled
serving plate with a  rim.  Spoon 2 tablespoons of the ponzu around, but not on, the bass.Top each with one-quarter of the apple mixture and the grated lemon zest.  Serve immediately, with the Sriracha on the side.

tostada con salpicón de res
For the Salpicón Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano,
  • crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black
  • pepper
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) olive oil
  • For the Grilled Tortillas:
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • Canola oil, for brushing
  • For the Salpicón:
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cored and
  • shredded
  • 1/2 seedless (English) cucumber,
  • cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into
  • 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
  • 4 radishes, cut into 1Ž4-inch
  • (6-mm) dice
  • 1/2 cup (90 g) drained nonpareil capers
  • 1/4 cup (5 g) coarsely chopped fresh
  • cilantro
  • 3 cups (645 g) Shredded Beef Filling
  • with Tomatoes and Chilies (page 175),
  • at room temperature
  • 2 ripe Hass avocados, thinly sliced

There are many different versions of salpicón, the hearty salad that is a specialty of both Mexican and Colombian cooks. The constants are shredded meat (or poultry or chopped seafood) and a sharp dressing. I like to serve it on grilled tortillas for a smoky crunch that everyone loves. (The tortillas can also be fried in oil, if you wish.)

Serves 6

[1] Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, lime juice, onion, oregano, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil.

[2] Grill the tortillas: Prepare an outdoor grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. For a charcoal grill, let the coals burn until they are covered with white ash and you can hold your hand about 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the cooking grate for about 3 seconds. For a gas grill, preheat it on high, then adjust the heat to 450oF (230oC). Or preheat a stovetop grill pan over medium-high heat.

[3] Lightly brush the tortillas on both sides with oil. Place them on the grill and cook, with the lid closed as much as possible, turning them occasionally, until they are crisp and lightly charred, about 2 minutes. Remove them from the grill.

[4] Make the salpicón:
Toss the lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, radishes, capers, and cilantro with the dressing in a large bowl.

[5] Place a tortilla on each of six dinner plates. Divide the lettuce mixture among them, topped by the beef. Top them with the sliced avocado and serve immediately.

Shredded Beef Filling with Tomatoes & Chilies Ropa vieja con tomates y chiles

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more
  • as needed
  • One 2.-pound (1.2-kg) beef brisket,
  • fat trimmed to 1⁄8 inch (3 mm)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black
  • pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 jalapenos, seeded and coarsely
  • chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 28-ounce (785-g) can fire-roasted
  • tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • . cup (5 g) finely chopped fresh
  • cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon mesquite-flavored liquid
  • smoke (optional)

Slowly simmered with tomatoes and jalapenos, this braised brisket is called ropa vieja (“old clothes”) because the shredded meat looks like raggedy clothes. There will be about a cup or so of the cooking liquid left over—be sure to save it as a sauce for pasta or polenta. You may even want to serve this as a main course with Mashed Potatoes with Oaxaca Cheese (page 145).

Makes about 4 cups (910 g)

[1] Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat it to 350oF (175oC).

[2] Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the brisket all over with 1 teaspoon salt and . teaspoon pepper. Place it in the Dutch oven, fat-side down, and cook it, turning after 5 minutes, until it is nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the brisket to a plate.

[3] If needed, add another 1 tablespoon oil to the Dutch oven. Add the onion, jalapenos, and garlic and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring them occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices with the oregano and bring them to a boil. Return the brisket to the Dutch oven and add enough hot water to come about three-quarters up the side of the meat. Bring it to a boil over high heat.

[4] Cover the Dutch oven and transfer it to the oven. Bake until the brisket is fork-tender, about 2. hours. Transfer the brisket to a carving board, tent it with aluminum foil, and let it stand for 10 minutes. Set the cooking liquid aside.

[5] Using a sharp knife and your fingers, shred the brisket with the grain. Roughly cut the shredded beef across the grain into bite-size pieces. Transfer it to a bowl. Skim off the fat on the surface of the cooking liquid. Stir in about one-third of the cooking liquid to lightly moisten the shredded beef. Add the cilantro, lime juice, and liquid smoke, if using, and mix it again. Season the beef to taste with salt and pepper. (The beef can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Reheat it before using.)

National Geographic’s Executive Chef Matthew Crudder Talks About His Plans for the Upcoming Farm-to-Table Dinner and Why He Likes to Source Locally

Jordan Wright
November 30, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

Matthew Crudder - Executive Chef at National Geographics

Matthew Crudder – Executive Chef at National Geographics

Presiding over National Geographic’s Washington, DC kitchens for over two years, Executive Chef Matthew Crudder draws on his considerable experience.  A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, the 45-year old chef hails from Ann Arbor Michigan, where he briefly attended the University of Michigan before finding his passion for cooking.  His resume reads like a primer for aspiring chefs – – The Four Seasons in Las Vegas and Chicago, the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, the Fairmont in Washington, DC and Sodexo clients, AOL, Gannett, USA Today and Fannie Mae.  “NatGeo”, as it is fondly called, is currently served by Sodexo who launched their “Local Artisan” program at NatGeo’s headquarters.  Crudder had taken a lead role in sustainability throughout his time at Sodexo and eagerly took the lead in this innovative program described as “a locally-sourced sustainable process highlighted by a chef-driven approach to natural cooking”.

On December 4th the Society will host a local, sustainable farm-to-table dinner in its historic Hubbard Hall, the first headquarters of the National Geographic Society, located at 1145 17th St., NW Washington, DC in DC’s Golden Triangle District.

Inspired by the exhibition “FOOD: Our Global Kitchen”, the evening will feature a guided five-course meal with local wine, beer and cider parings.  During dinner Archivist Renee Braden will share the history of National Geographic and discuss its rich relationship with food.  To purchase tickets go to http://events.nationalgeographic.com/special-events/2014/12/04/farm-table-hubbard-hall/

Earlier this week Whisk and Quill took the opportunity to speak with Crudder in advance of NatGeo’s exciting event.

What are your earliest food memories?

Growing up my family kept gardens and I started my involvement at home when I’d hear, “The water is about to boil go and get the corn or go pick the string beans.” Or “If you’d like jam on your toast tomorrow, here’s a bucket.  Go collect the blackberries on down by the road.”  So my grandmother and mother were big influences in terms of really fresh all-American cooking.  I mean in the more traditional sense as opposed to the concession stand or freezer aisle.

What was your first professional experience?

I started off in an Italian kitchen and fried zucchini was my specialty for the first two days of my training.  But the first real dish I learned to prepare from start to finish was osso buco.  And it’s still a dish that I love to prepare.

I like Marcella Hazan’s recipe for osso buco.

Well, actually on many occasions when people say they want to learn to cook, the first thing I do is hand them Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking!

Before I’d even been to cooking school I remember making the first couple of recipes from her book, which gave just four ingredients – – although the results were so much more than that.

Her description of the techniques is what makes her recipes so exceptional.  It really helps you to understand how the process should be looking and smelling so you know what you’re supposed to be doing.  And then there’s that sense of risk that comes with doing the braise!  You put it in the oven and you can’t do any more. You just have to wait.

What style of cooking is your favorite?

I really like what we’re doing now with the “Local Artisan” – – the farm-to-table style program that allows simple cooking techniques and the product itself to showcase the quality of the food.  A bit of salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice with a properly sautéed or roasted item is maybe all you need – – not hiding things under heavy sauces and sugars and things like that.  The food is just so honest and recognizable the flavors really shine through.  And it’s healthier too – – if you’re careful with the oil!

We did a small test for the dinner we’ll be doing next Thursday and we’ve been passing it around the kitchen today to let everybody sample it.  It’s just unadorned goat’s milk ricotta.  There are only four ingredients to making it.  But before we drizzled it with olive oil or added salt and pepper, the response we got, that it was so fresh and creamy and wonderful, was so rewarding.

Can you describe the types of events typical to NatGeo that you create dinners for?

The part of what I love about working for National Geographic is that whatever they’re involved in we’re going to be doing themes based on their event schedules.  Everyday I practice and focus on our cuisine using natural products and techniques and then I get to use these adventures on our special events.

We’ve done a man-on-Mars themed dinner and a Spinosaurus themed dinner as well as different cultural menus.  For South America we focused on the Amazon and Peru for the “Peruvian Gold” exhibit.  There are a lot of opportunities to be creative.  I do research to learn about cuisines I might not know about.  For example, for a group from Durban, South Africa, I got to dig around on the Internet and source some products to make it as authentic as possible, and our guests really got into the spirit of it.

Can you tell me a bit about the plans for the upcoming dinner on December 4th?

The house made goat’s milk ricotta I mentioned will be paired with roasted and pickled beets.  Some of the other elements I want to hold in surprise.  In terms of the event it will be a farm-to-table event.  But here we are in the beginning of December in the Mid-Atlantic and many things are not growing at this time of year.  When we found out about the event we made up some tomato jam at the height of the season for heirloom tomatoes.

I’m not going to serve a local hothouse tomato that doesn’t taste like anything just because it’s local.  And I’m not going to say we can’t have tomatoes because they’re not growing in the field near here now.  That wouldn’t be what was done in a more traditional setting either.  Back then you would have to take the bounty and preserve it in as many ways as you could.  So we have a number of items sprinkled around the menu that are taken from this summer’s bounty which we have prepared and preserved – – whether it was by drying or canning or freezing or pickling – – to hold on to the peak of freshness.

We’ll be featuring key ingredients in every dish that have been locally sourced.  We have a direct relationship with farmer/owner Greg Keckler of Orchard County Produce in Gardeners, PA who comes here nine months out of the year on Tuesdays.  He supplies subscriptions for a CSA we have in the building and holds a farmers market in our courtyard.  His quinces, apples, root vegetables, Swiss chard and kale will be incorporated into the menu.

Will there be other local providers involved in the dinner? 

I work very closely with my meat and fish providers to select products that will be readily available locally.  The beef we’ll use is Certified Angus Beef but it’s differentiated from other Certified Angus Beef by the fact that the product comes from a “single stream” from a particular small group of farms in Pennsylvania, so the animals are born and raised there.  The people that raise the animals also grow the feed for the animals and they’re processed and shipped locally.  That’s different from the standard way most Angus cattle are raised.  Their entire life span, as well as what they’ve been fed, is all along the line of sight of the ranchers that handle them.  So that’s very exciting.

We also will feature some wonderful seafood from the Chesapeake region.  And we are working with J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works from the Kanawha Valley in West Virginia using their wonderful salt.  The fact that something so basic can be a hand made product, I think is really special.

We’re not going to say, oh, that product is one county away, so we can’t use it.  What we try to share with our guests is the evolution and story of how the food supply evolves and ebbs and flows through the course of the year.

One of the things that we’ve done here is to compare food miles, something I’ve shared on National Geographic Live.  We don’t really track it, but we did compare how many miles food travels – – showing how near or far products have to travel when they are purchased from standard sources.  So if you are basing it on the availability of food, the radical difference in terms of the miles traveled by the food is a factor of, not tens, but hundreds of miles and we’re very aware of that.