Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ella's Wood Fired Pizza

After the DC Green Festival, a group of us were hungry so we headed on over to Ella's Wood Fired Pizza. I'd heard from quite a few people that it was good. The menu was wonderful with a broad variety of options for small plate starters, salads, and pizzas.

Of all the options, I chose the Verdura, a pizza with roasted artichokes, sun-dried tomato puree, olives, parmesan, and basil.

Let's say this. The crust was wonderful. Nicely crisp in a way only a wood fired oven can create. Delicious. The rest of the pizza lacked flavor strength. I wanted the artichokes to have bit more push to them and the sun-dried-tomato puree lacked the depth I would expect. I did not find the parmesan added the amount of salt I would have liked either. That said, this was not bad food. It was warm and the portion was just right, if a little generous. I shared T's carmelized onion and gorgonzola pizza which was tasty, but again, it seemed like the flavors could have had a bit more intensity. Again, a perfectly delicious crust.

A special note of pleasure: T tackled the Mangotini. Now at $8, I expect these are going to be thoughtful and delicious. It did not disappoint. I could have had a few!

For dessert, the table shared a wonderful serving of lemon bars. Yum. I make these and mine are good, but these were far superior. Our dining companions definitely enjoyed their meals, a Nicoise salad and two of the other pizzas (one with potato and pesto)

A note about the service. Our server was great. She was engaged and quick and thoughtful given our questions, etc. Really, just the way service should be.

Because I love the crust and the laid back vibe, I'll be going back to try some of the other options. Have you been? What did you like?

More apples on DCFud

Check out my entry on DCFud with a recipe for fried pies. You cannot make that shit up. J adds- If you want to get your fried pie on, Dollywood isn't too far away and I'm telling you, the fried pies are mighty fine.

Monday, September 26, 2005


So in two weeks my friends and I are going to Homestead Farms to pick apples. This is truly one of the most enjoyable activities I will partake in this year. The weather is a key contributing factor here. DC is lovely in the fall and picking apples is a great way to enjoy the season. For one thing, you don't have to bend down to pick apples. For another thing, there is a marked difference between store bought apples and fresh picked apples. It's a more vibrant flavor. One that taste like you are eating a real apple and not just a piece of produce. Among my favorite apples to pick at the farm are the Golden Delicious. In the store, it's a rather blah sweet apple. But on the farm, this is dessert. When you pick a Golden Delicious with just a blush of pink, the flavor is comes alive. This is probably just psychological hooey, but I do feel more energetic and alive after eating a ripe Golden Delicious. I am growing increasingly fond of the Pink Lady apples and the Jonathan apples as well.

In the lead up to the orgy of apple picking, I will be posting apple recipes for the next two weeks. If you hate apples, come back after the 8th.

I want to start with the basic - applesauce. Cannot imagine anything easier. All you have to do is peel and chop apples into chunks. Throw them into a pot and pour enough water so that they aren't sticking to the bottom of the pot. My proportion is usually about 1/2 cup of water for 6 cups of chopped apples. Simmer on low heat covered, stirring ocassionally for about 45 minutes or so until apples break down and look like applesauce. Add cinnamon if you want. Taste and add sugar but if you are getting fresh ripe apples, they already have GOD'S sugar.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Candy Salad

Forgive me, I am going to go all Ina Garten on you with the lifestyle porn. I had a kicking dinner last night. The story starts Labor Day weekend where J and I go to River's Edge Bed and Breakfast for a much anticipated getaway. River's Edge is where J proposed five years ago (AAAAAWWWWWWWW!!!). I'd link to River's Edge but the owner is getting married and will be closing the bed and breakfast.

So among the many activities in our weekend of relaxation was visiting Chateau Morrisette, a winery nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains. After a lunch complete with a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge, we went to do a wine tasting and shop in their store. We were waylaid by a Chateau Morrisette employee who decided it was his job to give us a the low down on his gay love life and the gay love lives of every man over 50 in Floyd, VA. I'm glad we talked to him BEFORE the wine tasting otherwise I would have fallen to the floor giggling like a 12 year old. Along with our case of wine, we purchased the Fire Dog Citrus Cilantro Grapeseed Oil and the Late Harvest Riesling Vinegar.

So last night I decided to break out break out the oil and vinegar. I made tomato and Havarti tartines, essentially French crostini and a mesclun salad with some greens I got from Eastern Market. A vinaigrette with Citrus Cilantro Grapeseed Oil and the Late Harvest Reisling Vinegar is heaven in a bowl. The sweet, spicy, smoky flavors were all working together. Because of its strong flavor, I did use the oil sparingly in the vinaigrette, mixing it with some extra virgin olive oil. Even watered down, the dressing still had the overwhelming flavor of the oil. Both elements of the dressing were so aromatic and powerful that nothing else was needed, no salt or pepper. Even the bit of minced garlic I put in was subservient to the flavor of the oil and vinegar.

I sparingly drizzled the vinaigrette on a tartine and that was a bad move. The delicate flavor of the heirloom tomato was totally lost in the flavor of the vinaigrette. But the vinaigrette on the salad greens rocked my world. The bitterness of the greens stood up well to the sweet and smoky flavor of the vinaigrette. I was eating my salad as if it were a bowl of Ben and Jerry's. When I was done, I would get more salad leaves out and dip them in the vinaigrette at the bottom of the bowl as if the arugula was a potato chip. Seriously, this salad was like candy.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Station Break - Completely Unrelated to food

Has anyone seen the Britney Spears' Fantasy fragrance ad? It is truly the most atrocious thing I have ever witnessed on TV. And that includes the 2004 election coverage. The whole premise is that she's a Greek goddess and he's (Kevin Federline) a Greek hunter. She's running around the woods all fluttery and she voice overs, "there was only one thing for the hunter to do." AND HE SHOOTS HER IN THE BACK. And she presents this scenario as the most romantic thing he's ever done for her. HE SHOT HER IN THE BACK. This folks is Britney's Fantasy. Ok back to food.

Party Line Review

So after all the hubbub of the Next Food Network Star, we get Party Line with Dan and Steve. And my overall review? Meh. While it didn't offended me the way a Susannah Locketti show would (I hate carbs and I lost 50 pounds!), it didn't grab me the the way a Hans show would. This has nothing to do with Dan and Steve, but the studio format (a la Sara's Secrets) is just not conducive to food porn in the Everyday Italian and Nigella Bites fashion. The show is fairly straightforward with Dan and Steve making dishes for entertaining. They supposedly give you tips on how they carry it off as caterers but the tips are fairly lacking.

In this first episode they are focusing on cocktail party recipes. It seems Steve got hit with the Rachael Ray bat because he's totally about the schtick. Dan on the other hand, is focused on the food. Their recipes are beef crostini with sage whipped cream, parmesan cheese balls, and crab stuffed pepperoncini. The crostini just seems crazy daunting because it takes the entire episode for the payoff of the fully assembled crostini. The beef doesn't even touch the pan until ten minutes into the program. The parmesan cheese balls sound like a winner, even with Steve admonition to use margarine instead of butter. However, I have to question using pepperoncini as the casing for the crab mixture. It just seems too overwhleming.

While they do give some fairly good advice in terms of presentation, there's a lot missing in terms of preparation. For example, Steve talks about using oversized plates for good presentation of hors d'ouerves and using things like olive plates to serve cheese balls on. However, they don't give good advice on preparation. For example, Steve tells us to serve the cheese balls warm. HOW do you do that? How far can you make them ahead and serve warm? How do you keep them warm if they are made ahead of time? Or with the whipped cream on the beef crostini, how do you keep it light a foamy for a long time? After a while whipped cream gets liquid. Do you just constantly have to make new batches of whipped cream? THAT'S the kind of advice I need from caterers.

Grading on annoyingness from Bobby Flay (BOO) to Alton Brown (YAY), I'd grade them a Sara Moulton.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Book Review - Garlic and Sapphires

Something happened over Labor Day that never happened before. J finished a book before I did. I was reading Will Write for Food (WWFF - thanks Kitchenette!!!!) and J was reading Garlic and Sapphires (G&S) by former New York Times Food Critic and current Gourmet Editor in Chief Ruth Reichl. I finished 100 pages of my book while J devoured his in a single weekend. This past weekend, I took G&S with me to Nebraska and devoured it myself. It's really interesting to read WWFF while reading G&S because you realize everything Ruth Reichl does right in her writing.

Needless to say, we loved Garlic and Sapphires. It's an immensely engaging read and her voice is chatty and friendly. She won me over in her first two chapters when she was being interviewed by the various New York Times bigwigs and she gave them a stinging critique of their restaurant reviews. This is a true iconoclast. In one interview she states "There's no right or wrong in matters of taste...It's just an opinion. And in the case of restaurants, an extremely subjective one. She spends much or her books talking about the identities she inhabits to elude detection from restaurants. The main purpose is to see how different the treatment of "regular" folks can be as oppsoed to the exalted. The underlying point she makes is that those of us who can't dine that way on a regualr basis need good service even more as they have saved and scrimped for one night to feel special. She also defends her focus on giving ethnic cuisines their due. In response to a haughty friend who thinks of Asian food as declasse she states "A thousand years ago the Chinese has an entirely codified kitchen while the French were still gnawining on bones."

She structures the novel based on where she eats and the identities she assumes. In almost every chapter there is a restaurant review and a recipe. She also spends quite a bit of time calling the New York Times out on it's feelings of superiority and hierarchy. It appears that the New York Times is a particularly cutthroat and miserable place to work, but you cannot minimize the vast influence you get as a New York Times writer.

My only complaint about the book is the ending chapters where she becomes increasingly dissatisfied with her life as a reviewer. The documenting of her desire to leave the life of a reviewer felt forced to me. While she would talk about the slow draining of joy from her job she would hen find a great restaurant that would restore her love. Over four chapters, it began to get old. It was hard to beleive that she wouldn't just have another good meal by the end of the book and stay with the Times.

But nevertheless it's an overall excellent read and one that you just have to devour in one sitting.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Humanity's Goodness Part II - Chowhounds

If you ever need a reminder of humanity's goodness, go to the chowhound boards. Amidst the complaints of bad service, recipe successes and failures, and tipping questions, people are using food to heal in the wake of this tragedy. Here's are some rocking posts to the chowhound message boards:

From Piglet on the Not About Food Board:
"Please make a vow to revisit this beautiful and remarkable city as soon as the airport and a hotel is up and ready for business!!!
I'm sure there are tons of people, (certainly NOT foodies) who will think 'well, I went there for Mardi Gras, but I'm not going back THERE again!!!'

Give to the Red Cross, then start saving your pennies to throw at any and every business that will take them as soon as they open the doors. Support this amazing place! We need to bring it back from this horrible state!"

From Nancy on the Home Cooking Board:
"My sister in Houston has to make @100 sandwiches to go on a 24 hour bus trip with refugees. What sorts of sandwiches other than peanut butter can last that long with no coolers/refrigeration?? Thanks so much in advance!"

From Foodobsessed on the Home Cooking Board:
"I am organizing a bake sale this weekend to raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief. Problem is, I myself am a very novice baker. Does anyone have any easy recipes they can share so that I can bake up some goodies worthy of being sold?"

From Uptown Kevin on the Hom Cooking Board:
"I live(d) in New Orleans but was lucky enough to make it out and am now in Chicago. I plan to return to Louisiana next week, or as soon as the power is restored at my parents house in Hammond (northshore of NOLA). My parents have been feeding 10-15 people daily at there house and have had an adequate amount of food stockpiled in their freezer, but it's dwindling by the day.

When I arrive, I plan to be cooking for 10-20 people daily and am brainstorming for some ideas for meals. I will be loading up my car in Chicago before my return, as the line at the grocery in LA can take hours.

Some easy mass-quantity meals I plan to make are:

Spagetti and Meatballs
Red Beans and Rice
Chicken (quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, grilled)
Fried Fish (they have a fish pond)
Smoked brisket
Potato Salad, Onion Rings, Baked Beans (all are cheap)

So far these are a few ideas, but they will go quick. I will have plenty of rice and potatoes, will be buying a ton of tortillas, some fresh veggies and probably a lot of skirt steak and Italian sausage (since I am in Chicago).

Ok, now it is your turn. I need meal ideas and also shopping ideas. Go for it..."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Off Topic - Give to the Red Cross

I know my posts make me come across as a snarky crank but really I am an optimist. I think the assholery of my response to David's article in the Food section of the Post was indeed about defensiveness. I dug my heels in about the fact I couldn't beleive that the nitwits were changing the tenor of the dining experience. Like Jon, I've seen all of that behavior that David describes. I just don't see it on a regular basis. I do see the equisite manners of Jon from IHateBroccoli and Jason from DCfoodies. I see me and my friends (having been schooled by friends who were waiters) try and acknowledge the wonderful gift it is to have someone else feed and serve you. And I read all the time on the Chowhound boards people deploring atrocious behavior. As I don't actually WORK in a restaurant, it's hard for me to fathom the prevalence of such assholery. In spite of that I beleive people are genuinely kind and good. And to prove that I am asking people to donate to the Red Cross for Katrina victims. We came together as a country during 9/11 and we are coming together now. While this is totally repetitive and everyone has a Red Cross link, I want to do my part (I gave!) So if even one person goes to the Red Cross and donates, I will continue to beleive in the goodness of humanity. It's up to you to maintain my faith in humanity (because I am that codependent) Give here: Red Cross.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Whoah (And I'm sorry)

Dear David, I edited the previous post to take out the venal comment as well as the need for therapy comment. I apologize. This is a food blog and not a place for personal attcks. That was cheap and immature. The previous post is supposed to be about what you were writing, not you and it was wrong for me to make comments about your morals or mental health. Once again big apology. -T

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Go Phyllis Richman!!!!

So the Washington Post has two articles on their food section. One from a disgruntled restaurateur about the rudeness of customers (complete with a guide on n how to show restaurants respect) and One (THANK GOD) from Phyllis Richman. As a frequent diner I really take exception to the characterizations Mr. David Hagedorn makes about diners. As if these crazy unreasonable folks speak for me and all the diners of DC. Judging by what I see from the Food Blogs, the diners are a fairly considerate and appreciative group. I know there are the crazies out of the world but there are crazy restaurateurs in the world. Complaining about people stealing or expecting freebies is focusing on such a tiny swath of diners. How often does that happen? Because most diners are fairly gracious as are most restaurant staff. Phyllis rocks the house as show goes through each of David Hagedorn's complaints. The two things I will focus on are his water complaint and the complaint about being hit up for silent auction donations. The first is his complaint about people being offended when as server asks: Would you like sparkling, still, or ice water." I think that's a crappy argument because if the server at Belga cafe gave me THAT choice (as the wonderful servers did at Sonoma and Corduroy), I would never complain and I don't. While I would never call that a scam (more like an honest mistake), it's a shitty feeling to have seven dollars added to your bill. But as the esteemed Ms. Richman so eloquently says, "Let's address that bottled water scam. Why do so many waiters ask whether you want "sparkling or still water" . . . as if tap water didn't exist? Selling water is clearly the point of the question. After all, the waiter doesn't ask what kind of bread you want, or how you prefer your napkin folded, or even whether you want your salad before or after the entree." Well said Phyllis.

The second is the "compensation for patronage" issue. I am on the silent auction committee for three organizations' fundraisers and hit restaurants up for donations all the time. And the thing is, I don't feel entitled for a donation. It's a DONATION. Something someone gives of their own free will. If they can't, no problem. When we bring up that we are a regular diner, it's because we have a lot of enthusiasm for your food and want to share it with others. We know that a gift certificate from you would be a hot seller because of our own experiences there. This isn't extortion, it's admiration.