Cookbook Corner ~ Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken

Jordan Wright
November 22, 2016

 It’s a tricky proposition to categorize Monica Bhide’s new novel, Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken under ‘Cookbook’.  Strictly speaking, it is not.  There are no indulgent recipes to swoon over as in her 2015 cookbook, A Life of Spice or the two before that, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen in 2009, and The Everything Indian Cookbook in 2004.  A prolific writer, Bhide has penned short stories, fiction and inspirational books, tailoring the latter to an audience eager to follow in her footsteps.

Her pieces have appeared in such prestigious journals as Food & Wine, Saveur, Bon Appetit, The Washington Post and the New York Times.  As a local author, she is a frequent lecturer on the topic of food blogging for the Smithsonian Associates programs and has been a guest speaker at Georgetown University.  Equally as impressive, she has been featured in four of the annual Best Food Writing anthologies along with some of the finest food writers in the nation.

Author Monica Bhide

Author Monica Bhide

In her latest novel Bhide offers up a sensitive, utterly hilarious portrait of a sweet, idealistic, and somewhat hapless, Indian teenager, Eshaan, whose secret love for a beautiful young woman, Kitt, leads him down a convoluted path to achieve his life’s mission.  Eshaan’s altruistic dream is to feed the poor, but until he wins a local TV chef’s competition, he has to navigate major life hurdles with the aid of a page-turning collection of both friends and foes.

Bhide brings us into her world to experience the scents and flavors of India, the heady aromas of frangipani and curry, by offering up these memorably quirky, endearingly fascinating characters in the literary tradition of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.  One can only hope this is just the start of an ongoing series about the adventures and misadventures of Eshaan, Lama Dorje, a wise Buddhist monk, Radio Rani, an orphaned servant living in the monastery, and many others who dwell in the blessed aura of Buddha’s Karma Kitchen.

Monica will appear at an upcoming Indian dinner featuring her recipes at The Fourth Estate restaurant in Washington, DC on December 12th.  Some of the recipes are central to the plot of Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken.  A signed copy of the book and a compendium of recipes are included in the price.  To view the menu and purchase tickets for the dinner, click on this link.  www.press.org/events/karma-and-art-butter-chicken-dinner

To learn more about Bhide, order one of her books or view her line of art jewelry visit monicabhide.com.

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Monica Bhide’s Butter Chicken

Makes 4-5 servings

1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger

1 tablespoon peeled, minced garlic

2 tablespoons Indian tandoori masala (I recommend Shan Tandoori/ Tikka mix)

1⁄4 cup canned tomato puree

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons melted butter or ghee*

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into small pieces

Salt, to taste

  1. In a large bowl, mix together yogurt, ginger, garlic, Indian tandoori masala, tomato puree, salt, lemon juice and butter. Add the chicken and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan.  Pour all remaining marinade over the chicken.  Roast 20 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear.
  3. Remove the chicken from the oven and place all the pieces on a platter. Reserve the cooked marinade in a bowl.

For the Sauce

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger

1 tablespoon peeled, minced garlic

2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

1 serrano chile, finely minced

1⁄2 cup heavy cream

  1. To make the sauce, in a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic.  Sauté for about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly. Use the back of a spatula to mash the tomatoes as you go. Continue until the tomatoes are completely mashed and soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the reserved marinade.
  4. Add the salt, chili pepper, and chicken and mix well. Simmer covered for about 10 minutes.

Add the cream and simmer for another minute.  Serve hot.

Izakaya Seki

Samantha Lee
November 16, 2016
Photo credit – Samantha Lee

  • Samantha Lee is a contributing restaurant reviewer for Whisk and Quill. We are pleased to share her experiences dining in the trendiest local Asian restaurants.  

Walking from the U Street Metro Station to Izakaya Seki, you may notice a prominent chōchin beside a two-story brick townhouse’s front door.  Made of shōjigami (a special type of paper), this traditional red lantern, constructed with a wooden or bamboo frame, is lit by a small candle and hung from bamboo sticks.  In Japan these lanterns are commonly found outside shrines and small bars where the color red is said to bring good luck to the business.  The term izakaya denotes a type of Japanese drinking establishment people visit after work, most notably for sake.

Before opening this restaurant, Chef Hiroshi Seki spent more than two decades as chef/owner of Seki, a successful sushi restaurant in St. Louis, MO.  More recently he left the St. Louis area, to be closer to his daughter, Cizuka.  Once here, the father-daughter team laid plans to for their partnership.  While Cizuka didn’t attend culinary school, she did gain valuable experience working one week of 16-hour shifts at Den, a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo.

In August 2012, they opened Izakaya Seki, serving authentic Japanese comfort food and drinks.  On the first level the Sushi Chef’s counter accommodates ten guests while on the second level, a dining room with small tables seats up 26 in a more intimate setting.  Chef’s counter seating is hard to come by and it’s a great place to sit if you like to watch how your food is prepared.  However, I prefer the upstairs dining room, which is quieter and has a more relaxing atmosphere.

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The simple first floor décor features wall-hung vases and a few paintings.  Along the stairway is a denim quilt and upstairs, among shelves of assorted sake bottles, are a pair of smaller paintings – one of a bear fishing and another of a bear eating.

The subject of the two paintings by Japanese contemporary artist Ryota Unno derive from Japanese folklore of the upland regions.  One is of a polar bear and the other is an Asian black bear, also known as a “moon bear”, or white-chested bear, because of its crescent moon-shaped marking.  In Japanese literature, the Asian black bear is associated with the mountain spirit.

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Check out the drinks menu to find an extensive array of choices including sake, Japanese whiskeys, wines, Japanese craft beers, shochu, and cocktails.  Shochu is a Japanese distilled alcoholic beverage made from rice, barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat or brown sugar.  It can also be made from chestnuts, sesame seeds, potatoes or carrots though those are less common.

You’ll note the food menu is separated into categories: ‘Raw’, ‘Grilled’, ‘Fried’, ‘Noodles’, ‘Rice’, and ‘Specials’.  Our group consisted of five adults who shared many dishes from each menu.

Tuna Tataki

Tuna Tataki

Omakase Sashimi

Omakase Sashimi

From the ‘Raw’ category, we chose the Tuna Tataki and Omakase Sashimi.  The Tuna Tataki consisted of seared yellowfin tuna with ponzu sauce, topped with scallions and garlic chips.  The Omakase Sashimi was a generous chef’s selection of assorted fish (including salmon, tuna, red snapper) and other kinds of seafood (including clam, octopus, squid, oyster, and shrimp).  The plate was garnished with cucumber slices and lemon curls, and served with wasabi and pickled ginger.  I enjoyed the freshness and wide variety of the sashimi.

Saba Marinated in Sake and Miso

Saba Marinated in Sake and Miso

From the ‘Grilled’ category, we selected the Saba Marinated in Sake and Miso.  Saba is a fancy name for a Spanish Mackerel and is usually prepared with five ingredients – mackerel, miso, sake, mirin (sweet rice vinegar), and sea salt.  In Asian cultures, a salty miso marinade is used to preserve foods.  The caramel-colored mackerel is served with head intact on a banana leaf and accompanied by grape tomato, wasabi cream sauce over mountain of grated ginger and wedges of lime and lemon.

From the ‘Fried’ category, we opted for Vegetable Tempura and Baby Octopus.  The vegetable tempura consists of seasonal vegetables – ours had pumpkin, eggplant, zucchini, onion, and purple sweet potato – battered in tempura batter.  Its accompanying dipping sauce is made from a blend of mirin, soy sauce, and dashi stock.  The octopus dish is five pieces of baby octopus breaded and deep fried, served with lemon wedge and sweet, but mildly spicy, shishito peppers.

From the ‘Meats’ category, we enjoyed the Kakuni, described as “slow braised silk pork’ it arrives as lean slices of pork belly slow-braised in a sweet soy sauce and garnished with grated ginger and handful of chopped scallions.

In the ‘Rice/Noodles’ category, Chahan is a savory blend of fried rice, shallots, shiso, soy, dashi broth, garlic, and butter with garlic chips and shiso leaf.  Personally, I didn’t enjoy it as much.  I found it to be too bitter.  But my fellow dining partners loved it.

On the evening’s ‘Specials’ menu was Tamagoyaki, thin layers of pan-fried eggs rolled into a log and placed in rectangular tamagoyaki pan.  It was served warm and you could tell each layer was seasoned.  I was surprised that it wasn’t sweet like the tamago sushi, but rather natural tasting.  Despite the eggy taste, it was one of my favorites.

Warm egg omelet

Warm egg omelet

Instead of picking one of the desserts, we decided to try all the desserts on the menu – Purin with Sesame Sauce, Ginger Ice Cream and Mochi Rice Cakes with Red Beans.  These desserts are small and not the best for sharing.

Trio of desserts

Trio of desserts

Purin is a cold custard pudding dessert similar to a flan but much silkier, creamier and firmer.  It is made with four simple ingredients – milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla.  It is shaped like a plumeria – a five-petaled flower symbolic of grace, delicacy and beauty.  It is served in a sheer black sesame sauce and garnished with a slightly burnt plumeria-shaped butter cookie embossed with ‘SEKI’.

Ginger Ice Cream is two melon ball-sized scoops of homemade ginger ice cream garnished with the same cookie.

The Mochi Rice Cakes with Red Beans are made with red bean paste and topped with three powder-dusted mochi rice cakes garnished with sweet chestnut pickle.  These rice cakes are made of sweet white flour, sugar and water and shaped like golf balls.  The texture is soft and chewy at the same time.  The sweet chestnut pickle is made of cinnamon bark, caster sugar, chestnuts and water.  I enjoyed this dessert the most because it was very authentic and it brought back memories of my recent visit to Japan.

Overall, I liked The tuna tataki, omakase sashimi, saba, tamagoyaki, and mochi rice cakes with red beans, though you may want to try their cold buckwheat noodles, aka soba, which are hard to find in our area.

Izakaya Seki is the perfect venue for parties of all sizes, whether couples, friends or family.  If you find yourself in the Cardoza neighborhood craving quality Japanese cuisine, I highly recommend you go.  I know I’ll be back soon.

Izakaya Seki, 1117 V Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. 202 588.5841 www.sekidc.com

MESS HALL PRESENTS BLAZED AND GLAZED ON SUNDAY MAY 15th

Jordan Wright
April 29, 2016
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts 

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Spliff, doobie, joint.  You can’t smoke em here, but it’s assumed you’ll come high as a kite to this first time munchies extravaganza where pot aficionados in the DMV will be schooled in the fine art of cooking with weed.  Organizers, Al Goldberg, owner of Mess Hall, and Nevin Martell, author of Freakshow Without a Tent, hope their trippy food fest will lure the stoner elite.

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Snacks rule when you’re feeling a buzz and who better to amp up the gourmet goods than Tarver King, molecular gastronomist and Executive Chef of the much-lauded The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, Virginia.  King will prepare “cannabutter” during one of the three marijuana cooking classes in the demonstration kitchen.  Other demos will teach fans how to make THC tincture for the ultimate munchies.

When I caught up with King by phone earlier this week, he was excited to be participating.  “It’s great to get in on the ground floor with an event like this,” he told me, “We’re all over it!  Back in high school we used to eat it on the 4/20, rather than smoking it,” he recalled using the universal euphemism for the annual consumption of cannabis.  King admits to scarfing down tacos from Taco Bell after the toke fest.  To get the high the teens were seeking, “we threw a bunch of weed in.”  But he’s evolved since then. “The nerd in me wondered if it would work better in fats.”  To that end he’s played around with a potent version of “cannabutter” which he’ll demo in one of the classes.  He claims this technique “draws out the THC and makes it ten times stronger”.  In actuality he admits he doesn’t smoke it often.  “I can get paranoid,” he says, relating an incident when the act of eating popcorn sounded so loud he thought he was disturbing his wife’s TV watching.

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It was perfect timing for Mathew Ramsay of PornBurger whose eponymously named cookbook just launched.  Ramsay, whose burgers Martell calls, “gloriously gluteus burgers that you want to have sex with”, will be on hand to sign his new book PornBurger: Hot Buns and Juicy Beefcakes (Ecco 2016).  He’ll also demonstrate how to make a weed-laced burger.

Buenos Aires Art in Washington DC by designer Jon Wye

Buenos Aires Art in Washington DC by designer Jon Wye

After the three-class session, guests can chill out in the beer hall/food court where vintage cartoons mix with the sounds of stoner soul and where Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, Fry Brothers, Sloppy Mothers Barbecue and Westray’s Finest Ice Cream are available for purchase.  Be sure to indulge in deluxe flavors from this locally-made ice cream.  Owner Westray Paul promises to bring a few exotic specialties from his “Adventurous” line of cold treats, including Coffee & Doughnuts, Burnt Sugar, and Honey Buttermilk Strawberry.  The hall also features marijuana-related paraphernalia, graphics-adorned gear from designer Jon Wye, and hip logo tees from Kelly Towles.

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The Deets – Tickets are $42.00 for General Admission and include an Astro Doughnut sandwich (a savory rosemary doughnut sandwich with pimento chicken salad and Gordy’s pickled jalapenos) and a beer.  The $75.00 VIP pass gives you front row seating plus an exclusive Kelly Towles t-shirt and a swag bag from DC area restaurants.  Entry times are at 11 A.M., 12:30 P.M., 2 P.M, 3:30PM and 5PM.  For tickets and more info visit https://t.co/zJu179jVG3

Mess Hall
703 Edgewood St., Northeast
Washington, DC 20017

Blue Star Families Neighbors Organization Benefits from Top Area Chefs’ Partnership

Jordan Wright
April 18, 2016
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts 

Chefs with their military chef partners

Chefs with their military chef partners

Chefs from some of our area’s leading restaurants participated in a fundraiser last week for Blue Star Families, pairing up with military chef counterparts to prepare some scrumptious nibbles and sips.  With a view of the White House across Lafayette Park as backdrop, guests were treated to an array of fabulous food.  The splashy red carpet event was filled to capacity with the extraordinary Americans who donate their time to support military families.  Guests recorded the moment in selfie photo booths, using patriotic-colored bead necklaces to place around the necks of the chefs whose dishes they liked most.

Just to give you a little background on this amazing organization, there are over 50 chapters around the world serving military families and providing assistance through education, empowerment and employment programs in civilian communities.  Chapters partner with the general public and other services to address the challenges of military life and reach over 1.5 million military families every year.  Can I get a hooray?

Hosted by Co-Chairs Sheila Casey and General George Casey, prominent members of the organization along with high-level military and politicians and their families, gathered in the grand reception room of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce for the celebration.  The evening’s emcee, author, TV and radio host and speaker, Mary Matalin, joined in the tastings before the ceremony began.

Chef Robert Wiedmaier with military chef Jennifer Medeiros

Chef Robert Wiedmaier with military chef Jennifer Medeiros

Partnering with and representing the Air Force was TSGT Jennifer Medeiros who created a dish with Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s restaurant.   Wiedmaier’s father was a “Full Bird” Colonel in the U. S. Air Force.  Together they served up Chicken and Pheasant Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Tomato Red Wine Sauce.

Cathal Armstrong (left) with military chef partner Marine Sargent Joseph Hale

Cathal Armstrong (left) with military chef partner Marine Sargent Joseph Hale

Representing the Marine Corps was Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve, named a “Champion of Change” by the White House, who partnered with Marine Sgt. Joseph Hale to prepare Northern Thai Flank Steak Salad reflecting his recent attention to Asian cuisine.

Northern Thai Flank Steak Salad

Northern Thai Flank Steak Salad

From the Coast Guard, FSC Derek Johnson was paired up with Nicolas Stephanelli of Masseria to prepare Burrata with Rappahannock Oysters and Caviar, and divinely decadent combination.  Stephanelli, whose brother-in-law is a retired Ranger, noted that he enjoyed “seeing something outside our culinary community.”

Burrata with Rappahannock Oysters and Caviar

Burrata with Rappahannock Oysters and Caviar

Representing the Navy was Derrick Davenport who paired up with David Guas of Bayou Bakery.  When asked where he worked, Davenport hinted he didn’t have far to walk from his current employment, but couldn’t say more.  Hmmmm.   Could it be the White House?  Davenport, who cooked on a submarine for six years before transitioning to the Executive Dining Room of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the 2015 American Culinary Federation USA Chef of the Year and as Team Captain for the U. S. Army Culinary Arts Team will compete at the IKA Culinary Olympics in Germany this year.

Gulf Stream Shrimp Maison

Gulf Stream Shrimp Maison

The dynamic duo made a dish of Gulf Stream Shrimp Maison to reflect Guas’ New Orleans’ roots.

Todd Gray puts the finishing touches on his dish

Todd Gray puts the finishing touches on his dish

Showing off his skills as a representative of the Army was SSG Marc Susa who along with Todd Gray of Equinox restaurant conjured up Rigatoni with Cannellini Beans, a Smoked Mushroom Bolognese, and topped it off with fermented black radish.

Beef Filet with Alaskan King Crab and Asparagus

Beef Filet with Alaskan King Crab and Asparagus

In the Guard + Reserve category were MSG Vilaykone Saynorath, Army, and Chris Morris of Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab whose dish precisely represented the restaurant’s luxury ingredients of Beef Filet with Alaskan King Crab with a soupcon of bearnaise sauce.

Macchu Picchu Roll

Macchu Picchu Roll

There was even a category for Military Brat that paired Chris Clime of PassionFish with CS1 Frida Karani, Navy.  Together they presented Frida’s Freedom Macchu Picchu Roll made with flounder, kampachi, chipotle and lime.

“Love Thy Neighbor” and “We Are Family” killer cocktails crafted by "Mixtress"

“Love Thy Neighbor” and “We Are Family” killer cocktails crafted by “Mixtress”

Gina Chersevani, of Buffalo & Bergen and Suburbia, who calls herself a “Mixtress”, crafted killer cocktails for the special occasion, titling them “Love Thy Neighbor” and “We Are Family”.  To echo that sentiment and cap off the evening’s award ceremony, Sister Sledge sang her chart-topper, “We Are Family” to the assembled guests.

Awards were presented for Civil Leadership to Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Richard Burr; as well as Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.  Dr. Peter Long, PhD, President and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation, received The Connie Milstein Philanthropic Award and Joy Goulette accepted The Blue Star Neighbor Award.

For more information about the organization visit www.BlueStarFam.org

Photo credit ~ Jordan Wright

SPRINGTIME ON THE TERRACE AT BLUE DUCK TAVERN

SPRINGTIME ON THE TERRACE AT BLUE DUCK TAVERN
April 16, 2016
By Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

Celebrating the bounty of Spring at the Blue Duck Tavern

Celebrating the bounty of Spring at the Blue Duck Tavern

Some sure signs of spring in the Washington, DC area are the cherry blossoms, opening day at Nationals Park, and the opening of the charming terrace at the Park Hyatt’s Blue Duck Tavern.  Last week’s media preview of their newest seasonal menu featured salads, entrees, cheeses, desserts and cocktails – many of which celebrated the strawberry.

Strawberry Salad

Strawberry Salad

Two of the newest dishes planned for Spring will be Rack of Lamb and Strawberry Salad.  Chef de Cuisine Brad Deboy will offer a unique combination of ripe and pickled unripe strawberries with thinly sliced raw almonds, radishes, granola, mint and his own house made farmer’s cheese with a drizzle of balsamic strawberry vinaigrette.

Executive Chef Franck Loquet prepares rack of lamb

Executive Chef Franck Loquet prepares rack of lamb

And Executive Chef Franck Loquet, formerly Executive Chef with the Sofitel in DC, will sear rack of lamb from Elysian Fields Farm in Pennsylvania pairing it with a lemon yogurt sauce and miniscule spring vegetables.  The French-born Loquet spent three years working for legendary chef Alain Ducasse, and his elegant style of cuisine is reflected in his delicate handling, and expert choice, of the finest ingredients.

Seared Lamb with Baby Spring Vegetables

Seared Lamb with Baby Spring Vegetables

Cheese Specialist Sophie Slesinger showed us an impressive array of domestically produced seasonal cheeses from the pasteurized milk of goats, sheep and cows and offered them with Strawberry Rhubarb Mostarda.  Among these was the tangy Sandy Creek Cheese from the Goat Lady Dairy in Climax, North Carolina, featuring a distinctive vein of vegetable ash.  If you’d prefer raw milk produced cheese, you may be tempted by one made from the raw milk of cows and ewes.  Patmos Peak is a mild, semi-hard cheese produced by the Bonnie View Farm in Albany, Vermont.  It is a lovely option for those who believe that both flavor and nutrients are sacrificed during the pasteurization process.

Cheese Specialist Sophie Slesinger displays her wares

Cheese Specialist Sophie Slesinger displays her wares

Meanwhile trays of tasty tidbits were offered by servers swirling around the pretty patio.  The Strawberry Gazpacho is particularly refreshing.  And one of the most delectable is the goat milk ricotta gnudi (which means “nude” in Italian).  These luscious ricotta “pasta” are graced with a rich sauce, enhanced with roasted garlic, radishes and shitake mushrooms.  Another warm weather option is the Maine scallop crudo with buttermilk panna cotta, cucumber and American smoked trout roe with squash blossoms.  A lovely combination.

Maine Scallop Crudo with Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Maine Scallop Crudo with Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Two gin-based refreshers will be on the Spring/Summer cocktail menu – the “Strawberry Gin” with rhubarb, espelette and tonic, and “The Lady Bird” made with rosemary, pineapple, verjus and house made grenadine.  A third is “The Oak Park” featuring rum blended with kiwi and lime.

Newly hired Pastry Chef David Collier, a James Beard Award semifinalist for National Pastry Chef of the Year in 2009, brings his talents from the famed Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, Texas.  His Strawberry and Rhubarb Shortcake with strawberry sorbet proved picture perfect for dining al fresco.

Chicharone with Spring Pea Hummus and Minted Strawberry Gazpacho

Chicharone with Spring Pea Hummus and Minted Strawberry Gazpacho

A peek at the new menu revealed more seasonal delicacies.  Look for soft shell crabs, English peas, morels, asparagus and King trumpet mushrooms to make an appearance.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Shortcakes

Strawberry and Rhubarb Shortcakes

Make reservations now for next week’s Masters of Food & Wine “Garden in a Glass” on April 23rd when Bartender Alex Gordon and Chef de Cuisine Brad Deboy will teach guests how to make four distinctive cocktails using herbs from the terrace garden while enjoying delicious hors d’oeuvres.  For reservations and information visit www.Hyatt.com or call 202 419.6755

Photo credit: Cary Pollak and Jordan Wright