Sunday, March 30, 2008

I'm No Expert Either, Paula Deen

Here's another post we came across both linking to our post and with more reaction to the situation.

Again, Paula Deen's response that since labor issues are not her expertise, she won't be "dragged into it," is sad to me.

Somehow, I don't have to be "dragged into" having an opinion reflecting compassion and fairness.

Do you?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hollywood East Cafe Again and Again

After long days, last night we headed back to Hollywood East Cafe for another wonderful meal. These folks know how to cook. Time after time we have had delicious food made right and I always look forward to going back.

Shrimp wonton starters were thick and delicious. The wrappers were a bit thicker than I am used to and the shrimp was reminiscent of that found is their tasty haw gaw on the dim sum menu.

Chicken and mushrooms in a rice hot pot. Such an unremarkable sounding dish but a total hit. The ceramic pot arrived smelling deeply of smoke and goodness. Chicken falling off the bone, with a very light sauce over moist rice with plump mushrooms. Everything smoky, everything delicious, everything subtle but flavorful.

Sauteed string beans, something I've had many times at other restaurants were sassy. Thin julienned ginger sticks, garlic, onion, and just enough red pepper and a light sweet soy sauce to really bring the dish together. Cooked but crisp. The salt balanced with the sweet.

Crispy shredded beef is the best I have had. Very lightly floured (rice flour?) a tangy sweet sauce, served hot with a generous portion.

Again, Hollywood East succeeds for me by their restraint. Just enough sauce, just enough heat. Nothing gloopy, nothing pushing it too far. But everything seems so well-considered.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Avoiding Smithfield Meats: Where Do You Shop?

We've had a good amount of questions about the Paula Deen / Smithfield story posted a few days ago. I want to say that I had no beef (haha) with Paula Deen before I looked into this story. My post was activist and I am glad it informed folks, but it was also about being disappointed in someone who keeps missing a huge opportunity to do the right thing and take a stand herself. Someone who we have enjoyed. And yes, as some pointed out, Smithfield is the company that could be making much better choices here. But when you promote the company for money, you have become the company.

That said, I'm not quite ready to go vegetarian again but would like to buy meat from folks who make better choices.

So what do you say? Do you know where to by local meat from sustainable farms? Is it possible to do?

Someone also linked to this article in Rolling Stone that blew me away. Pig pollution to the nth degree.

I guess I'm moving past not wanting to know about my food to wanting to know more.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Trusty's - in desperate need of a deep fat fryer

Can we take up a collection for Trusty's on Capitol Hill? They make some of the best hamburgers in the city but don't have a deep fat fryer so no fries, onion rings, cheese sticks, or wings to go with that. Just potato chips. I don't know about you all, bu potato chips aren't going to do it when I am having the best hamburger in DC. The meat is hand formed and comes from ground beef that tastes like beef. The patties are a perfect size and the beef is so good that I had a double burger, took out one patty, and just ate the patty by itself without the benefit of a bun. Still tasted pretty damn good. But really, a deep fat fryer would pay for itself in one night. How much can a fry daddy cost?

Speaking of fries, we went to Clare and Don's Beach Shack last Friday with our friends the Marrieds. It's a nice fried seafood restaurant with tons of vegetarian options. But the real kicker is the small, crinkle cut fries. J and I love those fries but only if they are small. Luckily, the fries served at Clare and Don's are small, meaning there's a good crisp to potatoey ratio there. It was nice to see them treat their vegetarian dishes with the same care they treated their fish.

Which of these is a can't miss . . .?

A while back, we had an entry with a list of places we've wanted to try. We've checked a few off the list, most notably Guajillo, Locanda, Thai Square and Mark's Duck House (mini-reviews coming).

For our next step, we want to hear from you. If you were going to pick three (okay four) from this list as can't miss spots, what would make the cut?

Bangkok 54
Bebo Trattoria
Bob’s Noodle 66
Colorado Kitchen
Cuba de Ayer
Eat First
El Charrito Caminante
Pollo Campero
Faidley’s (Baltimore)
Farrah Olivia
Hank’s Oyster Bar
Ill Mee Buffet
Joe’s Noodle House
La Sirenita
Mi Rancho
Ray’s The Classics
Ruan Thai
Saigon Café
South Street Steaks
Tabard Inn
Taqueria Distrito Federal
Taqueria Nacionale
Thanh Son Tofu

Monday, March 17, 2008

DC Food blogger potluck

So yesterday, at the very sane time of 5:00 pm, the Food Bloggers of the Washington, DC metro area had their first potluck to show off our skills at cooking and purchasing. The potluck was courtesy of these two ladies and it was held at this gentleman's well appointed group house. I kid you not this group house rocked and I lived in group houses for all of my single life in DC (and one year of my married life). The kitchen was huge with plenty of counter space and a island where the stove was. Eatfoo said that while the layout was perfect, the appliances were hit or miss which led to a great question - would you rather have a well designed kitchen with so-so appliances, or a small kitchen with high quality appliances?

The potluck itself was a total blast. This was an eclectic group, from law students in their 20's and older couples in their 40s. You could easily have a conversation with anyone in the room and the conversation was lively and witty. We talked about blogging but even more about cooking and living in DC. You totally knew it was a foodie room when we were talking about the joys and frustrations of living with roommates and one person said, "And I knew I had to hide my knives when I found my Henckles in the dishwasher." A collective gasp ran through the room as if we were ladies in a small Southern town talking about the Mayor's gay son have an affair with the seminarian. This led to a 20 minute conversation about knives.

And the food? Most excellent. But what would you expect from a Food blogger potluck. I love the sugarcured pork belly serve by our host that was accompanied by a raisin-yoghurt sauce (much better than it sounds), some kind of sugar-salt crumble and the delightful carbonated orange segments. Somehow our host was able to put orange segments in a carbonator (normally used for club soda) and infuse the orange with bubbles. The result was fruit that danced on your tongue. But EVERYTHING was wonderfully made. The menu included two kinds of bread (Irish soda and wheat), an Irish Guiness stew with some of the best beef I've ever tasted, some Italian chicken croquettes, a nicely season Indian potato salad and an Israeli couscous salad, and my contributions - Vietnamese clay pot chicken (the catfish didn't look good at the store) and two kinds of dumplings. Dessert included an amaretto cake, a walnut cake, an old-fashioned vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, and mint brownies. We all ate seconds and thirds and packed up many plates of leftovers.

The over the top element to this happy potluck (as if local beef and sugar cured pork belly wasn't enough) was getting our own mixologist who made up cocktails specially for the gathering. The one with blueberries just rocked!

But don't take my word for it. This person had a good time too!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Paula Deen Resolution: Why We Think You Can Do Better by Smithfield Workers

It is with great disappointment that we have made the decision to no longer watch Paula Deen, a Food Network chef and cookbook author who we have loved for many years. We will no longer be purchasing her magazine or books, sharing stories about her show, or making any statement or observation that could in any way be construed as supporting her continued relationship with and consistent statements in support of Smithfield Foods.

We offer the following blog resolution in support of encouraging Paula Deen to make a better choice about who she works with and why. That she opens what she calls her big heart and educates herself about the historic struggle many workers face to be physically safe at work.

We hope that she turns a critical eye to the situation at the Tar Heel packing plant in North Carolina and that she works to understand the difference between not liking your job or having a hard job where you have complaints, and the challenges faced when you are systematically and consistently facing horrible conditions.

And, finally, we hope that Paula Deen understands that healthy family values are worker-friendly and that corporations have a real opportunity to be and become safe and family-friendly places to work.

So today, we offer the following:

WHEREAS Paula Deen is not only connected to but serves as the public face of Smithfield Foods, a meat packing and processing operation,

WHEREAS Paula Deen has received compensation for her relationship with Smithfield Foods,

WHEREAS numerous sources have documented horrible conditions for workers at the Smithfield Plant (source, source, source)

WHEREAS "the cities of Boston, Chelsea, Somerville and Cambridge all passed resolutions supporting the workers at the Tar Heel Smithfield plant and calling for the removal of products made in the plant from the shelves." (source)

WHEREAS "the city of Chicago has already passed a resolution against Smithfield, insiting the company “cease and desist from the deplorable, immoral and illegal conditions they have inflicted on their workers.” (source)

WHEREAS groups like the United Church of Christ have passed resolutions encouraging members to pay attention to the problems at hand (source),

WHEREAS workers have publicly stated that they have tried to contact Paula Deen and urged her to break ties with Smithfield due to some astounding problems at the plant,

WHEREAS "In February 2005, Human Rights Watch released a report that was the result of a year-long research into operations at three separate processing plants operated by Smithfield Foods plant, Tysons Foods and Nebraska Beef company. The report says workers at the plants are frequently injured, then refused medical care or fired." (Human Rights Watch)

WHEREAS numerous sources have documented Paula Deen's public response:

"It is not my expertise." (source)

When asked directly, "If it is somehow found out down the road that Smithfield is intimidating their workers, would you ever pull your name or not be associated with the company?" Deen responds, "You know, all of us in America who work, we all have some complaints about our work. You know it's called work for a reason. It's not called play so there will always be complaints about our work place. . .I am not the one to solve union issues."

WHEREAS Smithfield has been associated with the following products:

Armour, Butterball, Smithfield Lean Generation Pork Tender 'n Easy, Smithfield Self Basting, Lykes, Sunnyland, Jamestown, Gwaltney, Great, Valleydale, Esskay, Reelfoot, Smithfield Ham & Products and Stadler Country Hams.

WHEREAS Smithfield has been associated with the following affilated companies:

- Animex, S.A. - Warsaw, Poland
- Carolina Turkeys (Subsidiary) - Mount Olive, NC
- Charcuteries Imperator S.A. - Saint Priest, France
- Esskay (Subsidiary) - Riderwood, MD
- Gorges/Quik-To-Fix Foods - Garland, TX
- Gwaltney of Smithfield, Ltd. - Smithfield, VA
- Jean d'Erguet S.A. - Quimper, France
- John Morrell & Co. - Cincinnati, OH
- Lykes Meat Group, Inc. - Plant City, FL
- Moyer Packing Company (Subsidiary) - Souderton, PA
- Murphy Brown - Warsaw, NC
- Murphy Farms LLC (Subsidiary) - Rose Hill, NC
- North Side Foods Corp. (Subsidiary) - New Kensington, PA
- Packerland Packing Co., Inc. - Green Bay, WI
- Packerland Transport Inc. - Green Bay, WI
- Packerland-Plainewell - Plainwell, MI
- Patrick Cudahy Inc. - Cudahy, WI
- RMH Foods - Morton, IL
- Showcase Foods - Philadelphia, PA
- Smithfield Division - Smithfield, VA
- Smithfield Specialty Foods Group (Subsidiary) - Portsmouth, VA
- Societe Bretonne de Salaisons France - Landivisiau, France
- Sun Land Beef Company - Tolleson, AZ
- The Smithfield Packing Co., Inc. - Smithfield, VA
- Valleydale Foods, Inc. (Division) - Salem, VA
- Williamsburg Foods, Inc. - Toano, VA

RESOLVED that we cannot and will not in good conscience support, encourage the support of Paula Deen or Smithfield Foods and their subsidiaries.

RESOLVED that we unequivocally state that Paula Deen may not be responsible for the problems and conditions at the workplaces of any products she endorses, but that she is now part of the very corporation creating said problems and conditions.

RESOLVED that we will continue to speak out against worker abuse and intimidation.

RESOLVED that we stand in solidarity with cities, organizations, and individuals speaking out on this matter.

NOTE: I did write to Paula Deen but did not receive a response.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Top Chef Teaser

Just want to let you know I have high hopes for this season of Top Chef. The down to earth, fun personalities seem to outnumber the annoying personalities. Not only that, Tom Collichio is less high and mighty and the judging seems to be less about trying to rip people apart and more about a thoughtful critique of a dish. Not only that - a lesbian couple! A full recap will be forthcoming.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Take That Bay Area! DC food bloggers are doin’ it for themselves!

I’ve read the tales of the joys of the Bay area doing their food blogger potluck and the delights that were enjoyed. Like many other Washingtonians, I’ve always felt a tad inadequate about DC’s food scene. But now with the DC Food Blogger potluck, we are sticking our flag in the sand and saying that we can do a potluck too! So about a month or so ago, Trouble with Toast posted on her blog that she would love to do a food blogger potluck. Culinary Couture came on board to help organize and many bloggers joined the bandwagon. So yes, this weekend we will have the inaugural DC Food blogger potluck with a big chunk of the DC area food blog community represented.

From the looks of things, the menu will reflect DC’s international nature.We’ll make sure to give you a full blow by blow of the potluck, complete with catfights, fierce runway walks, and stolen granola bars. We at DCfoodblog will be making vegetarian and shrimp potstickers along with Vietnamese caramel fish and sticky rice cooked in a traditional Laotian basket. I hope our food can hold up to what will be a high standard of cooking. I definitely think we'll give those Bay Area foodies a run for their money. -T

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bruno and Austin

In January, my dear friend Lady Lancaster gave birth to twins, turning her family of three into a family of five. Holy cats, that's a huge change. It was a difficult pregnancy for Lady Lancaster (and really for the whole Lancaster family) as she was on strict bedrest for three months. The one ray of light was that I got to spend a lot of hanging out time with my oldest friend. I would stop by the hospital and spend hours talking about Tyra Banks, the Presidential Race, and our respective life paths. It was a great gift for me to be able to spend so much time with my dear friend just talking.

As Lady Lancaster is among the more social and active people I know, she was more than happy to give birth and subsequently be allowed to walk around. Being premature twins, Bruno and Austin were in the hospital for a good six weeks. Because of my crazy work schedule I wasn't able to see the twins until a few weeks ago, when they finally came home. Like I did with their older brother, I totally fell in love with the two babies. I totally don't get people who are bored by newborns. I adore newborns. While it's true newborns eat, poop, and sleep, holding a newborn means that your entire world is a soft, bundle of snuggliness.

What's amazing is that Bruno and Austin love to be held. They totally love having someone hold them close. There's something so profound about being able to be the entire world for another person. When you put them down they'll fuss and whimper a bit. But when you pick them up, they turn their head to get close to you and close their eyes and use their tiny little hands to grab you and pull you in. Seriously folks, there's no better feeling than a little baby snuggling next to you. It's like aromatherapy.

Thanks for being born you two. I hope my kids will be a nice as you.

Monday, March 03, 2008

For the sister - Tortilla Soup

When my sister and her boyfriend came to visit us a few months ago, I decided to greet them with a warm bowl of Tortilla Soup. Tortilla soup is one of the most interesting things I make because the corn tortillas give the soup a unique texture and a warm corn flavor. This is based on the Barefoot Contessa recipe but I added a few more Mexican touches of my own.

Tortilla Soup

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 stalk of celery chopped
2 poblano peppers chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, finely chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin

1 can of pureed or diced tomatoes
1 cup of corn (frozen or canned)

6 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of pre-cooked chicken, shredded (what I do is buy whole chicken breasts, sear them on both sides and then bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes)
8 corn tortillas sliced in 1-inch slices

Throw the first set of ingredients into a large pot and saute until the vegetables have softened and the onions are translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the next two ingredients and saute another 10 minutes. Add the last set of ingredients, bring the whole thing to a boil and then quickly lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tortillas have completely disintegrated. Serve with avocado, cilantro and sour cream.