Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ July 26, 2016

Jordan Wright
July 26, 2016 

Ashlar at the Morrison House ~ The Return of The Majestic ~ True Food in the Mosaic District ~ Author Luncheons at the Hay Adams ~ Edible Flowers Decorate the Plate 

Swank Modern Interior and New Chef Dazzle at the Morrison House

At long last the Morrison House the elegant boutique hotel in Old Town, Alexandria has shed its dowdy decor to feature a snazzy redo by Los Angeles–based DH Design.  In the dining room the facelift is reflected in soft colors of sage and sand with banquettes covered in a soft honey tone and dark wood tables giving a hint of tavern style.  The outdated bar with its clubby red leather wingback chairs has given way to an elegant reception room for private events.

The new, more fashionable style is reflected in the bar area which has moved to just off the central hall.  Black and white photographs of notable intellectuals and their famous quotations signal the hotel’s design aesthetic has moved into the 21st century.  And so has the food.

Virginia native, Bobby Surdam, has been brought on as Executive Chef at the re-christened Ashlar Restaurant and Bar where the menu has turned toward colonial traditions and a tavern style of fine dining.  Surdam comes well-schooled by some of DC’s leading chefs including Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s and Brian McBride formerly of Blue Duck Tavern.  Of late Surdam helmed the kitchen at Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia, another Kimpton property.  Surdam’s approach is an upscale interpretation of American regional cooking that uses the finest ingredients from Mid-Atlantic farms and beef producers, as well as local Maryland seafood.

Complementing Surdam’s dishes, Lead Bartender Maria Concepcion, draws from colonial era spirits once imbibed in homes and taverns in Alexandria.  To that end, Virginia whiskey, beers and wines are well represented.  And that’s fine.  But its her elegant cocktails, flips, syllabubs and punches that are made with rum, madeira and sherry, spirits that were regularly brought into the port city by ship, that are the most alluring.  Well-researched colonial era recipes have led her to offer a variety of punches that harken back to the days of Alexandria’s grand balls and receptions.  Sampled at the ribbon-cutting reception in May were two such recipes – one made with Broadbent Rainwater Madeira and another a non-alcoholic Lavender and Honey Lemonade.

Last month we dined at Ashlar and here are some highlights from our June supper.

Snapper Crudo with radish, dill, pickled cucumber, jalapeno, beet chips, spring onions and espelette – lovely and light.  Spring Gnocchi with asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, fava beans, English peas and mint pest – a sensational dish in which every element harmonizes yet each shines on its own.  Another is the rockfish, delicate and aromatic with an ethereal smoked tomato broth that includes calamari from Judith Point, briny cockles and Prince Edward Island mussels.

We bypassed the four different steak cuts for lighter fare, although I’ve heard raves about the bison strip steak from Gun Powder Bison & Trading Co. in Monkton, MD and the American Wagyu hangar steak from Snake River Farms.  All steaks are served with a choice of béarnaise, red wine jus or green peppercorn jus.

If you’ve never visited this unique hotel and just want to get a feel for its charms, try its Happy Hour on the patio and unwind over local oysters and charcuterie, or cheeses from North Carolina’s Goat Lady Dairy.

Ashlar is located at 116 South Alfred Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.  For reservations call 703 838-8000 or visit www.AshlarRestaurant.com

Majestic Restaurant Returns to its Lofty Perch with New Chef 

The Majestic Cafe

The Majestic Cafe

After the departure of Chef Shannon Overmiller and Cathal Armstrong early last year, The Majestic has had its ups and downs.  A new chef to replace Overmiller didn’t last long and the restaurant decided to close its doors for a reboot.  Thank heavens, it did.  The original Art Deco period décor has since been enhanced with a skylight, tin ceilings, a Jazz Age mirrored light and an eclectic collection of prints, paintings and photographs filling every inch of wall space.

The Majestic Cafe

The Majestic Cafe

But let’s turn our attention to newly minted Executive Chef Gaby Hakman.  Let’s hope she stays on.  Hakman, who hails from a Greek/Israeli family with a long history as restaurateurs, honed her chops in New York City and Miami’s South Beach where she cooked in some of the trendy restaurants that young people tweet about.  There among the trendoids, she had a chance to strut her stuff and develop her modern approach to Mediterranean cuisine.

My first introduction to Hakman’s cooking was a beet salad that I can’t get out of my head.  Beet salads are on nearly every menu these days, but what makes this one stand out is the details.  Hakman roasts sweet baby beets – golden, rosy red and dark purple beets – adds some orange supremes, cascades toasted pistachio nuts over the top, then positions the yummy bits over a creamy sauce of whipped goat cheese.  It’s her approach that’s different and the combination of earthy, creamy, sweet and fruity that makes this salad sing.  Another is the charred octopus.  Here Hakman treats it to the smoothest puree of chickpeas, a drizzle of harissa and serves the wood-charred tentacle with arugula and plump Greek olives.

Rosy red steak tartare has the requisite capers, anchovy and cornichons but with a homemade lemon mayonnaise to boot.  Fish is served whole and grilled over a wood fire.  A head-on dorade (aka bream) gets a slather of salsa verde over its crispy skin and is sopped up into tiny roasted potatoes.  It’s a typical seaside Greek dish.

Two other dishes that I heartily recommend are the Roast Chicken Panzanella, a perfectly executed, spit-roasted, soul-satisfying bird and melt-in-your-mouth Lamb Meatballs spiked with currants and pine nuts.  Both are tender and juicy in their own way.

Pastry Chef Michelle White, who does double duty at another of Alexandria Restaurant Group’s spots, Virtue Feed & Grain is a treasure.  Her Coconut Cake is truly sublime.  I have slaved over a coconut cake myself and know full well that if done right, it can take half a day’s labor.  I have never baked another, though it’s certainly worth the trouble if you have the time and inclination.  If not, White’s is one of those small miracles.  Ditto for what the staff calls her “Caramel Crack Cookies” served with Nutella Budino, a happy marriage of mousse and pudding topped with whipped cream.

The Majestic Café is located at 911 King Street, Alexandria 22314.  For reservations visit www.TheMajesticVA.com

True Food Kitchen ~ A Restaurant from the Master of Healthy Eating 

Phoenix-based Dr. Andrew Weill has your health in mind.  Founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, Weill is the bestselling author of numerous books on healing, aging, wellbeing and cooking, including his seminal cookbook, True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure (Little, Brown and Company, 2012) with Co-Authors, Sam Fox and Michael Stebner.  Many of the 125 recipes culled from the book reflect the philosophy behind his collection of twelve health-conscious True Food Kitchen restaurants.  Located around the country, this one is located in the Mosaic District of Fairfax, VA.

True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen

As a world-renowned pioneer in Integrative Medicine, Weill introduces diners to his healthy eating philosophy in this rustically-designed restaurant that reminded me of a restaurant in Topanga Canyon and the first thing you notice when you arrive at the bar is the comforting whirr of juicers churning out cocktails and mocktails made with fresh seasonal ingredients.

The restaurant’s menu trends towards Asian and Mediterranean cuisine as Dr. Weill’s recipes draw inspiration from his own anti-inflammatory food pyramid.  Pizzas are crafted with daily-made spelt and flax dough, eggs are organic, beef is sustainably raised, and fish are sustainably harvested.  All boxes checked!

On a recent visit I sampled a few items from their seasonal menu and found a lot to swoon over and one that didn’t meet the high bar the restaurant sets for itself.

Edamame Dumplings and Kale & Avocado Dip got us off to an impressive start, and there was much oohing and aahing over a trio of “Natural Refreshers” – Medicine Man, a combo of anti-oxidants that came from seabuckthorn, pomegranate, cranberry, honey, black tea and soda; Kale-Aid, made from kale, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger; and Honey Bee Ginger Beer from ginger, honey, chai spices and lime.

Crisp-crusted braised artichoke pizza showed nice acidity from lemon ricotta, and the vegetarian Street Taco was a satisfying choice for my vegan accomplice.  Unfortunately, my sea bass, a lovely and delicate white-fleshed fish, had spent too much time in the saute pan, though its accompanying cushion of asparagus, sugar snap peas and roasted mushrooms in a lemon-nooch emulsion was heavenly.  Did I tell the server it was dry?  Yes.  Did they offer to redo it?  Of course.  Did I know what “nooch” was?  No.  But I did a bit of research and discovered it’s short for nutritional yeast.  I am not a vegan.  End of discussion.

We went for a trio of desserts.  All the better to try three out of four of the daily in-house made sweets.  On this day they were strawberry crumble, coconut chia pudding and a chocolate delight topped with ice cream.  Though I can’t recall the precise descriptions, I can only hope we didn’t disturb the surrounding tables by fighting over the final spoonful.

Open 11am till 11pm, True Food Kitchen is located in the Mosaic District at 2910 District Avenue, Fairfax, VA 22031  www.TrueFoodKitchen.com

When to Spring for a Lavish Luncheon 

The stimulating “Author Series” at the Hay-Adams recreates the salons of yesterday when acclaimed writers held court in private homes.  Though the ever-popular Politics and Prose bookstore continues this tradition with nightly author talks, those fold-out chair gatherings can’t compete with a lazy afternoon spent on the 9th story rooftop of the Hay-Adams listening to a featured author while enjoying an elegant three-course luncheon.

Nicolas Legret, who has been promoted to Executive Chef since the departure of Chef Peter Schaffrath, has shifted the hotel’s cuisine to reflect his heritage.  His superb execution of familiar French classics – a Provencal vegetable salad, an exquisite seafood boudin blanc with bouillabaisse reduction, and seasonal peach and cherry clafouti with crème fraiche ice cream – accompanied by champagne and Sancerre, proves that the hotel is serious about stepping up its culinary profile in a very competitive town.

Provençal Vegetable Salad with herb pistou vinaigrette

Provençal Vegetable Salad with herb pistou vinaigrette

At last month’s white linen event the conversation was lively between noted author Kristin Hannah and the assembled guests.  Hannah explained how she began writing with her mother who was terminally ill with cancer.  At the time Hannah was studying law and this was a way for the women to spend more time together.

Her first manuscript was 600 pages, but when she submitted it her agent’s response was, “You may have talent, but frankly it’s impossible to tell.”  Thankfully for her legion of fans she kept at it.  “I had an insatiable appetite for writing,” she revealed.

Lucky Roosevelt.  Photo credit Dan Chung

Lucky Roosevelt. Photo credit Dan Chung

Now a successful author of 21 historical romance novels, the tawny blonde told guests that she writes in longhand and she doesn’t like to diagram characters, plot and motivations.  “I realized that my best writing is when I am more fluid,” she said in answer to a question about her methodology.  She also spoke of her commitment to writing romance novels.  “Women’s stories are far too often lost, forgotten or overlooked.”

After lunch Hannah signed books for the tony crowd who included author, journalist and former U. S. Chief of Protocol, Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt.

Next in the series will be Executive Editor and Executive Vice President of Random House, Jon Meacham, whose latest book, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, will undoubtedly draw a different crowd.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, will speak on the relevancy of the Bush era model of governing by diplomacy and prudence in domestic affairs.

The Hay-Adams is located across from the White House at 800 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20006.  Tickets to the September 23rd luncheon will be available for purchase online beginning September 3rd.  For more information email ekravchenko@hayadams.com or call 202.835.2263.

Food and Flowers ~ Recipes from Kitty Morse’s Book “Edible Flowers” 

A recent trend to decorate dishes with edible flowers hasn’t been lost on author and TV and radio personality Kitty Morse whose book Edible Flowers – A Kitchen Companion with Recipes (Chefs Press) was first published in 1995.  Morse was in the forefront of the food-and-flower movement and a revised and expanded issue of this book is still sought after by cooks and caterers who like to pretty up the plate with eye-catching blossoms.

I was intrigued by Morse’s book which reminded me of my first experience using flowers in food.  Inspired by famed naturalist and author Euell Gibbons’ book Stalking the Wild Asparagus (1962), I bravely sautéed daylily buds into a stir-fry.  From there I graduated to sprinkling violets, marigolds, redbud blossoms and dandelion greens into salads.  I’d come a long way from the child who spent summers sucking the nectar out of honeysuckle flowers.

Morse, a native-born Moroccan, has penned ten cookbooks, five of them on the cuisine of Morocco and North Africa.  Her memoir with recipes, Mint Tea and Minarets: A Banquet of Moroccan Memories, was chosen Best Arab Cuisine Book/USA/2013 by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Morse has graciously allowed me to share two of her recipes with you.  Note: If you don’t have a garden to forage from, farmers’ markets often carry edible flowers.  But be sure your blossoms haven’t been sprayed with any chemicals.  Another source for edible flowers is online at www.MarxFoods.com.

Kitchen Companion: Lavender

Cherry Clafoutis with Lavender Blossoms

Serves 4
The subtle aroma of lavender infuses this classic clafoutis, a rustic dessert from the Limousin region of France featuring cherries suspended in a thick pancake-like batter that puffs up.

  • 3 tablespoons fresh or dried lavender blossoms, divided use
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups fresh or frozen Bing cherries, pitted
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons almond meal
  • Fresh or dried lavender blossoms, for garnish
  • Whipped cream, for garnish if desired

If using fresh blossoms, strip them off the stems. Place 2½ tablespoons of the fresh or dried blossoms in a small sachet or tea infuser and place in the warm milk. Cover and infuse for 30 minutes. Discard sachet and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish or 4 individual dishes and dot the bottom(s) with the butter and cherries.

In a bowl, whisk the infused milk, sugar, eggs, almond extract, flour, almond meal, and remaining lavender blossoms. Pour the mixture over the cherries. Set the baking dish or dishes inside a larger pan filled with enough warm water to reach halfway up the dish sides.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until set. I prefer this served warm. Garnish with lavender blossoms and a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

 

Chilled Lilyed
Melon & Mango Soup

Serves 4 
Daylily (Hemerocallis species and cultivars) live a mere 24 hours. This graceful native of Asia, one of the few edible lily varieties, has long been prized for its color and beauty, as well as for its culinary properties. The petals are crunchy and fresh testing, much like a crisp lettuce leaf. In China, tiger lily buds (Hemerocallis fulva), or “golden needles,” are dried and added to soups or stir-fries. Beautifully presented, this chilled melon-mango dish makes a light and refreshing summer starter or dessert.

  • 1 mango, cubed
  • 1 medium in-season melon, cubed
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 5 daylilies, for garnish

In a blender, purée the mango, melon, and orange juice in batches until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. Rinse the blender and purée the strawberries, sugar, and orange liqueur. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. Chill the purées for 2 hours before serving. To serve, ladle the melon mixture on one side of a shallow soup bowl. Ladle the puréed strawberries next to it without mixing. Cut 1 daylily into thin strips and sprinkle on top. Decorate each bowl with a whole flower and serve immediately.

Nibbles and Sips ~ June 18, 2016

Jordan Wright
June 18, 2016
Photo credit: Jordan Wright
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

 

Indique Redux; Asia Nine Bar & Lounge – An Asian Oasis Endures and Thrives; Italy in the Box; Simit + Smith – A New Turkish Bakery and Café; Chickpea Mediterranean Grill; Q Barbecue’s Secret Corn Pudding Recipe 

Indique Introduces New Dishes, New Décor 

Chef K. N. Vinod and Co-Owner Surfy Rahman

Chef K. N. Vinod and Co-Owner Surfy Rahman

Chef and Co-Owner K. N. Vinod along with Co-Owner Surfy Rahman recently re-launched their modern Indian cuisine restaurant with a totally revamped menu that included street food, family style dishes and classics with a modern twist, as well as gorgeous handcrafted Indian art and an updated décor.

Orange Shreekandh made with orange, saffron, cardamom, Grand Marnier, pistachio and mint from Indique

Orange Shreekandh made with orange, saffron, cardamom, Grand Marnier, pistachio and mint from Indique

As a staple of the Cleveland Park community for over 12 years, the upscale Indique has always been at the forefront of Indian cuisine in DC and, Chef Vinod, one DC’s most most celebrated chefs is a well-known frequent guest at the Smithsonian Resident Associate Programs.  His annual contributions to the prestigious Sunday Night Suppers series, hosted by Alice Waters, Joan Nathan and Jose Andres, cannot be understated.

(l-r) Tellisherry Cocktail -- Shrimp Puckka Shots

(l-r) Tellisherry Cocktail — Shrimp Puckka Shots

For Rahman it’s a family affair.  His sister-in-law sourced the new china, furniture and glassware; his daughter accompanied her father to India for fresh inspiration; and his two sons, Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman, who intend to follow in their father’s footsteps, are looking forward to a DC opening of their fast casual Indian concept called Rasa Indian Grill.

Indique

Indique

Rahman hired Carlie Steiner of Stir Bartending Co. to create a stylish cocktail menu for Indique which she based on Indian spices and herbs.  Her delicately spice-infused drinks use house made tonics made with garam masala and another that incorporates a blend of Indian herbs and spices such as fresh curry leaf, coriander and fenugreek.  Unique ingredients like toasted mustard seed and tamarind chutney contribute to an exotic and aromatic profile.  Addictive bar snacks included.

In a few weeks Indique will add a Happy Hour menu and Saturday and Sunday brunch.  Check the website for deets.  www.Indique.com

Asia Nine – Penn Quarter Perennial 

Asia Nine

Asia Nine

As one of the longer lasting Asian-owned restaurants in Chinatown’s Penn Quarter, Asia Nine has rightfully basked in its reputation.  It’s proximity to the downtown action – theatres, Verizon Center, museums and more – is yet another draw.  But this cozy, hip spot doesn’t rest on its laurels.  It continues to turn out an amazing variety of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean and Japanese dishes for the adventurous diner.

Softshell Crab Sushi

Softshell Crab Sushi

Start with a refreshing Hibiscus Mojito or Lychee Martini.  No passport required.  Want sushi?  There’s maki sushi, nigiri sushi and vegetarian sushi.  Honey roasted duck?  Coming right up.  Your dinner partner is craving Thai curries?  There are three types – green, panang and lemongrass.  Noodles, your thing?  There’s everything from pho to udon.  All made to order.

Steamed buns

Steamed buns

Chef owners Natalie Tantivejakul and Rod Yomanee both immigrated individually to America from Thailand.  Natalie is from Bangkok and Rod is from a small town in the south named, Na-Korn.  The couple met and later married when Natalie hired Rod to be a chef at her first restaurant, Rice & Spice in Lorton, VA.  With roots from both the North and South of Thailand, Natalie and Rod are able to create menus that reflect both cooking styles as well as their favorite dishes from all over Asia.  In addition to two Asia Nine locations, they now have Rice & Spice Thai Cuisine restaurants in Alexandria and Fort Belvoir.

Fried Shrimp and Pho with Udon Noodles

Fried Shrimp and Pho with Udon Noodles

This week Asia Nine announced a new Saturday brunch service from 11am to 3pm.  The menu includes plenty of egg dishes, like kapow, bipimbap as well as the ubiquitous street food, pa thong ko, a deep-fried donut-style confection served with fresh fruit and sweetened condensed milk for dipping.

N.B. They’re especially welcoming to large groups with advance notice, the restaurant prides itself on getting everyone served and out in time for curtain up.

915 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20004 or their newest location at 254 Crown Park Ave.,  Gaithersburg, MD 20878 www.AsiaNine.com

Simit + Smith

Turkish Bakery and Café Opens in the Heart of Georgetown 

Cary Pollak with Jordan Wright

Simit + Smith is a two-story Turkish-inspired eatery housed in a charming historic townhouse.  Arriving on the ever-burgeoning bread and baked goods scene, the Istanbul-based company surprises the adventurous eater with authentic Turkish savory breads and rolls.  The star of the show is simit, a baked, not boiled, ring-shaped bread eaten throughout the day in both Balkan and Mediterranean countries.  Its texture is moist and light on the inside.  The dough is briefly dipped in a grape molasses and water mixture which helps the two types of coatings, sesame seeds or multigrain, stick to the bread, giving it a delectably crunchy crust.  Simit is the Turkish name, but it is also known by different names and comes in many varieties in Greece, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Lebanon and Israel.

Turkish breads from Simit + Smith

Turkish breads from Simit + Smith

You’ll find three varieties of simits here – original, whole wheat and multigrain.  To prepare these delightful puffs of bread for the oven, the first two varieties are the ones that are coated with sesame seeds.  The third is dipped in a multigrain mix that includes sesame, rolled oats, flax, poppy and sunflower seeds, and millet.  On a recent visit to the new Georgetown branch, both company President Zulfikar Bekar and Business Development official Dina Careccio pointed out that the simit is lighter on the inside and crunchier on the outside than its cousin, the bagel.  All are handmade and preservative-free.

The company’s name is the result of an effort by the Turkish-based parent company to portray “a synthesis of Turkish/Mediterranean food culture and American food culture.”  They felt that the simit is something very familiar in Turkey, as is the name Smith in the U.S., so they chose a name that is blends East meets West.

Street cart in Turkey

Street cart in Turkey

While the simit gets top billing, there are other Turkish breads to explore.  Acma (pronounced ACH-mah) also is in the form of a bagel, but is more akin to the light, eggy dough of brioche.  The un-holey pogaca is baked with different fillings, the most interesting of which is black olives and tangy,Turkish kasseri cheese.  Lamahcan is their version of pizza that’s topped with marinated minced meat with spices, sumac, onion, parsley with a wedge of lemon on the side.

A light fare salad from Simit + Smith

A light fare salad from Simit + Smith

The DC menu differs from the one in the New York area largely in that more “simitwiches” are available in the Big Apple, though the DC outlet has a variety of homemade sourdough bread sandwiches including a roasted chicken sandwich with cheddar cheese, sundried tomatoes, mixed greens and honey mustard sauce, and a Doner (sirloin) Kebap sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and Café de Paris sauce, a butter-based sauce commonly paired with beef.  A vegan sandwich also is on the menu.  Choose from an array of salads – Aegean Feta, Chicken Orange, Quinoa Salmon or Caesar served with the doner kabap.  (Hopefully the menu will widen to include some of the spreads like baba ganoush, Nutella and hummus which they serve in their three New York and two New Jersey restaurants.)  Be sure to try their real Turkish coffee and Turkish chai tea, too.

Last year the simit was listed in Zagat’s “9 Snack Foods You Need to Try in 2015” (albeit with an inaccurate claim that boiling is part of the preparation process).  The article predicted that this tasty treat will soon be seen around country and lucky for us, they chose Washington, D.C. as their first outpost beyond their U.S. home area!

Simit + Smith, 1077 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20007 www.SimitandSmith.com

Italy in the Box 

What says amore more than a surprise box filled to the brim with Italian gourmet delicacies and landing on your doorstep?  Arriving without a card or return address, I had no one to thank, or share it with, before racing to the kitchen to prepare what it had in store for me.  All I had to do was boil water, toss the jar of Ligurian pesto from Niasca Portofino onto the artisanal basil tagliatelle from Pastificio Camp’Oro, then shave bits of aged pecorino from Famiglia Busti on the whole divine mess of pasta al dente.

The resulting homemade supper from Italy N The Box

The resulting homemade supper from Italy N The Box

The nifty brown box also included truffled potato chips from Tartuflanghe, which will wind up crumbled over roasted lemony green beans, and a delightfully fragrant Prunotto Mariangela Moscato wine jelly, which will find itself married to vanilla yogurt.  I wasn’t going to mention the three different flavors of chocolate Camardo truffles – rum, coffee and hazelnut – since I left no evidence of their existence.  But now that you know, I recommend you get your own, because I have no intention of sharing something that should not be made public anyway.  Check out www.Italynthebox.com for all their other products.

Chickpea – A New Mediterranean-Style Fast Food Spot

Bright red umbrellas punctuate the patio seating at Chickpea

Bright red umbrellas punctuate the patio seating

From the team who brought you DRP Pizza (in Del Ray and Belle Haven) and Stomping Ground the bakery/coffee shop/Southern menu eatery along Mount Vernon Avenue beside the farmers’ market, we now have Chickpea.  This new spot, as cute as its name, is beside the playing fields along Route 1 near Crystal City.  You can’t miss it for the bright red umbrellas on the large patio.  Open only a few months, its already catching on with those on the go.  Because sometimes you just WANT IT NOW!  No waiting, no table service, no tipping.  Okay, a contribution to the small glass jar by the register would be the kind thing to do.  Grab a tray and get in line.

The hardest part is choosing from the tons of options at Chickpea

The hardest part is choosing from the tons of options at Chickpea

It took me awhile to figure out the system and make my choices, but the dish I concocted was very tasty.  You begin by selecting a base from among brown or parsley rice, toasted quinoa, a giant oven-baked pita, spinach, arugula, mixed greens or romaine.  I was feeling healthy just reading the menu.  I mixed arugula with romaine.  Next is protein – lemony chicken cooked with wine, fresh herbs and garlic; spicy chicken with yogurt, peppers and herbs; chargrilled beef kofta; pulled lamb shank, which they slow roast; or falafel, crunchy little chickpea balls flavored with garlic and cilantro.  I had the lamb shank and it reflected the long, slow-cooked flavors you’d expect.

Slow roasted lamb shank with toppings served on vintage enamel trays at Chickpea - baba ganoush and hummus sit to the side at Chickpea

Slow roasted lamb shank with toppings served on vintage enamel trays at Chickpea – baba ganoush and hummus sit to the side at Chickpea

Toppings are next and there are tons to choose from.  You can add whatever you like from among lettuce, tomatoes, feta, olives, sumac onions, cukes, fresh mint, tabbouleh, grilled veggies and more.  Stay focused because your fourth decision will be spreads and here come the classics – tzatziki, baba ganoush, harissa, green chili chutney, two kinds of hummus or a creamy roasted garlic sauce.  All made in-house.  Not wanting to overwhelm the dish with too many flavors, I asked for mine served on the side so I could enjoy it separately with a side order of pita chips.

Freshly made lemonade , pomegranate ice tea and a refreshing infusion of mint, lemon and cucumber water are some of the delicious drink selections at Chickpea

Freshly made lemonade , pomegranate ice tea and a refreshing infusion of mint, lemon and cucumber water are some of the delicious drink selections at Chickpea

Lastly you’ll opt for one of three vinaigrette dressings for your very large bowl of deliciousness – lemon-oregano, Greek or red wine.

I have tried one other Mediterranean fast food spot that couldn’t hold a candle to Chickpea.  Try it.  You’ll love it.  It’s just outside Old Town, a few blocks from downtown Del Ray and thankfully there’s plenty of parking.

529 East Howell Ave., Alexandria, VA 22301 www.MyChickpeaGrill.com

Tuffy Stone’s Q Barbeque Secret Corn Pudding Recipe 

If you can’t get to one of Q Barbecue’s four locations in the Richmond area, here’s some inspiration just in time for summer grilling.  We asked pitmaster Tuffy Stone for this fan favorite side dish and he willingly obliged.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to your chargrilled protein, or just on its own with a salad of summer tomatoes, cukes and garden greens. Tip of the Day: Be sure to use the same, or similar, high quality ingredients in this classic Southern tribute to the king of summer vegetables – corn.

Head shot of Tuffy Stone aka "The Professor"

Head shot of Tuffy Stone aka “The Professor”

Tuffy, aka ‘The Professor’, is a barbecue ninja.  Oh, and I should mention he’s also a classically trained French chef.  Working with his team “Cool Smoke”, the Lynchburg native and über pitmeister has won countless awards for his smoked meats.

Q Barbeque's Ribs

Q Barbeque’s Ribs

He has appeared on the TV show BBQ Pitmasters and was a judge on Season Three.  Last October he dazzled the barbecue world with a win at the 2015 Jack Daniel’s Invitational BBQ competition in Lynchburg, TN.

Q Barbeque's Famous Corn Pudding

Q Barbeque’s Famous Corn Pudding

 

To give his corn pudding authenticity, Tuffy uses freshly shucked corn and Patrick Henry Yellow Cornmeal, milled by Ashland Milling Company of Virginia.  If you’re serving a crowd, just double or triple the recipe.  www.QBarbeque.com

Q Barbeque’ s Corn Pudding

Yield: 5 servings
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes

  • ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 4 ½ tablespoons diced onions
  • 4 ½ tablespoons corn, cut off the cob
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 rounded tablespoon of yellow cornmeal
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • ½ egg yolk, beaten
  • ¾ creamed corn or ½ (14.5 ounce) can creamed corn
  • 1 rounded tablespoon sour cream
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons whole milk
  • ¼ cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and 8-x-8-x-2-inch glass baking dish with butter and set aside.
  • In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and corn. Cook until soft, approximately 10 minutes. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cornmeal, and eggs. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until combined.
  • Add creamed corn and sour cream, beating for 1 minute on lowest speed.
  • Add milk and cream, beating for 1 minute.
  • Add melted butter, salt, pepper, and corn mixture, beating for 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish.
  • Place a shallow pan on the lower oven rack and place baking dish inside. Fill larger pan with enough water to come up halfway on sides of baking dish.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then turn pan ¼ and back for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Nibbles And Sips Around Town – June 9, 2016

Samantha Lee, Guest Contributor
June 9, 2016

Suma Restaurant + Bar

Suma Restaurant + Bar

Suma Restaurant + Bar is an New American style restaurant located near Bethesda Row.  Suma translates to “born in the summer”. Boasting an outdoor 20-seat patio with sectional sofa and basket-woven chairs, the indoor dining room comfortably seats up to 57 people.  The large windows give off an airy feel to restaurant, while French doors bring in more natural light.

Suma Patio

Suma Patio

Chef Gene Sohn has been in the DC hospitality industry all his life. Eschewing a path to business school, he chose to become a chef. Moving up in rank and responsibility from dishwasher to Chef de Cuisine, he worked for the Robert Wiedmaier Restaurant Group including the prestigious Marcel’s and the ever-popular Mussel Bar in Bethesda for almost 8 years.  Eventually he teamed up with Jay Evans, the former General Manager of Mussel Bar – Bethesda, and Jennifer Day to open Suma.  Sohn aims at mastering simple, classical dishes with a modern twist.

Suma Interior

Suma Restaurant Interior

 

Suma Art Decor

Suma Art Decor

The restaurant is modern with an art deco vintage theme. Some of the quirky artifacts include a Japanese Pagoda, green pear-shaped candles in a lantern, decorative lamps with spiral-patterned shades, metal sculptures, and a golden glass bowl. In one of the corners of the restaurant a Vermouth Bianco poster oversees the room. Booths sport a honey brown pattern and lighting comes via vintage lightbulbs.  Six bar stools create an intimate feel to the small spot.

Vermouth Bianco

Vermouth Bianco

Suma Bar

Suma Bar

The menu reflects the chef’s seasonal approach. In lieu of bread service, expect a plate of homemade pickled vegetables – spicy cucumbers, onion and cauliflower.

Pickled Platter

Pickled Platter

For my appetizer I chose Maryland Crab Dip – a slightly creamy, mix of fresh lump crabmeat with butter and Old Bay and topped with panko bread crumbles.  It arrived in a cast iron skillet on a wooden plank with slices of warm baguette.  I found it to be light and savory with no discernible filler.

Maryland Crab Dip

Maryland Crab Dip

Of particular pleasure are the Deviled Eggs garnished with goat cheese, bacon bits, and chives and served over chipotle aioli.

Deviled Eggs Close Up / Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs Close Up

On the day I visited the specials featured Lobster Bisque, Salmon Burger, and Seared Tuna, all of which sounded delicious but I had my eye set on the Pan Seared Halibut, an entree of line-caught halibut fillet lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and dressed with a buttery tomato and caper sauce.  Light in texture, it was accompanied by lemon-accented whipped Yukon potatoes and asparagus.  The dish was perfectly prepared and delicately seasoned.

Pan Seared Halibut

Pan Seared Halibut

Desserts were luscious sounding – Vanilla Creme Brulee, Banana Nut Bread Pudding, Chocolate Chip Brownie, Mango Sorbet and Pistachio Parfait – and it was difficult to decide. I opted for warm Vanilla Creme Brûlée made with freshly scraped vanilla bean pods and topped with a scoop of creme fraiche – a shareable portion that was light and not too sweet.

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee

Suma Restaurant + Bar,  4921 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814.  301 718-6378.  For information and reservations visit sumabethesda.com. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily (except Monday’s).  Happy hour is from 4-7 pm and brunch on the weekends is from 11 am-4 pm. Happy Hour specials include $2 off drafts, wine by the glass, all products from Maryland, and $1 oysters. The restaurant is three blocks south from the Bethesda Metro station. There is not a private lot but there are multiple public parking garages within a 0.5 mile radius.

Photo credit ~ Samantha Lee


Southern Living Magazine Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

June 13, 2016
Jordan Wright 

The grounds of Wentworth Mansion

The grounds of Wentworth Mansion

Last Friday the magnificent Wentworth Mansion served as backdrop for Southern Living magazine’s 50th anniversary celebration in Charleston, South Carolina.  The iconic shelter magazine, rated as the largest regional lifestyle publication in the nation, paid tribute to its past by acknowledging its history of recipes and tradition with “A Taste of the Decades”.  Southern Living Editor-in-Chief Sid Evans presided over the festivities greeting guests who strolled the grounds during the cocktail reception before sitting down to a lavish five-course dinner.  Wine pairings were provided by Moet Hennessy.

Executive Chef Marc Collins, of the adjacent fine dining restaurant, Circa 1886, designed the five-course Lowcountry menu to reflect each decade of the magazine’s classic recipes.  Collins a major player in the founding of Charleston Wine + Food, clearly was inspired by the culinary challenge. 

Southern Living’s 50th Anniversary Dinner “A Taste of the Decades”

"Spam" disguised as Quiche Lorraine

“Spam” disguised as Quiche Lorraine

Hors d’Oeuvres

Charleston Press Club Meat Balls ‘93

Shrimp-In-A-Pickle ‘86

Fried Green Tomatillos, Jalapeno Jelly ‘97

Paired with Domaine Chandon Étoile Brut

Napa Valley, California (Founded in 1973)

Heirloom Tomato Aspic with Blue Crab

Heirloom Tomato Aspic with Blue Crab

The 60’s

Heirloom Tomato Aspic

Blue Crab, Lemon Mayonnaise, Roasted Garlic Purée, Baby Basil,

Smoked Cheddar Croutons

Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon 2015

Cape Mentelle, Margaret River, Australia (Founded in 1970)

Chicken with Cashews Salad

Chicken with Cashews Salad

The 70’s

Chicken with Cashews Salad

Bibb Lettuce, Pepper Relish, Chicken Confit, Carolina Gold Rice Polpette, Cashew Butter, Sherry n’ Soy Vinaigrette

Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay 2013

Spring Mountain, California (Founded in 1977)

Seared Foie Gras with a side of Green Bean Casserole and Beech Mushroom and Parsley Salad

Seared Foie Gras with a side of Green Bean Casserole and Beech Mushroom and Parsley Salad

The 80’s

Green Bean “Casserole”

Seared Foie Gras, Crispy Onion Rings, Lemon Gelée,

Beech Mushroom & Parsley Salad

Cloudy Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013

Marlborough, New Zealand (Founded in 1985)

A surprise dish served in a TV dinner tray of Edna Lewis' Collard Greens, Blackened Catfish and Corn Pudding

A surprise dish served in a TV dinner tray of Edna Lewis’ Collard Greens, Blackened Catfish and Corn Pudding

The 90’s

Elegant Beef Blue

Rosewood Farms Wagyu Shoulder Tender, Blue Cheese Crust, Asparagus, Chardonnay Pan Sauce

Bodega Numanthia, Numanthia 2009 served from a magnum

Toro, Spain (Founded in 1998)

A Trio of Cakes ready to go out

A Trio of Cakes ready to go out

The Y2k’s

A Trio of Southern Cakes – Hummingbird, Red Velvet and Coconut

What a night! What a heavenly fête!  Don’t you just wish you were there.

Photo credit: Marc Collins

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