Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gourmands rejoice!

The Express said it best last week: we live in the greatest city in the world for total nerds. Foodies are quickly catching up.

Save the Deli!

Until I moved to the Northeastern United States, I never gave sandwiches much respect - they were something that I took to school to stave off hunger until I got home. But even those of us raised on tacos tip our hats to the wonder that is the Jewish Delicatessen.

On October 21st, the 6th and I Historic Synagogue will host David Sax, author and life-long deli obsessive, who will be interviewed by Todd Kliman, the Food and Wine Editor and Restaurant Critic for The Washingtonian as they figure if delis can survive in the age of health food. Tickets for "Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen" are $6 each, or you can get two tickets with the purchase of Sax's book. (Click here to purchase)

Samples of classic deli fare will be available.

Sixth & I 
600 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
For a behind the scenes look visit their YouTube channel here.

Made in Maryland

The Sugarloaf Craft Festivals feature the works of Maryland artistans and musicians. Their October edition will also have gourmet food exhibitors, including Rising Sun Farms, Rohini's Chutneys, and Loraina's Italian Specialties.

The Sugarloaf Crafts Festival will be held Friday, October 9 and Saturday, October 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Sunday, October 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds (16 Chestnut Street, in Gaithersburg, Maryland). This fall, the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival will be partnering with the Manna Food Center to raise funds and attract canned food donations that will be used to help feed the hungry in Montgomery County. Visitors to the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival may bring a donation of canned food to the show to receive a $2.00 off discount on admission.

Regular admission to the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival is $7 for adults when purchased online, $8 for adults at the door, and free for children under 12. Admission is good for all three days, and free parking is available.

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Neighborhood Institutions

Georgetown is proudly insular, a town within a city enveloped by a city that concedes only the slightest hint of continuity with the rest of the District through its street names. I would never call my beloved neighborhood trendy - it's charm is opposite: a storied place. And though this has an effect on walking-distance dining choices, 1789, a grand Dame of dining (power or otherwise) has earned its place as the other Georgetown institution. The flipside to t his fame, however, is that my demographic (a couple of years out of school) pigeon-holes these types of establishments as special-occasion only (also known as parental visit-appropriate). The team at 1789, headed by Executive Chef Dan Giusti, is now offering new ways to experience 1789: a Seasonal Tasting Menu (three courses for $40) that will change monthly (October features Apples) and a monthly cooking class ($75 per person) on the last Saturday of each month (starts at 10 AM on Saturday, October 24, reservations required) where participants will learn how to cook said menu alongside Chef Giusti and finish with a three-course lunch paired with wines.

A few weeks ago 1789 invited us for dinner, which included a tasting portion of the October menu - Apple Cider Lacquered Pork Shank. The apple cider gave the shank a light sweetness, while the Yukon gold potato puree, roasted apples and radishes was a great play on textures and flavors, with the bright colors off-setting the pork. I would love to learn how to roast apples without sending them over the edge which is what I always do when I try to use apples in a savory dish.

As for the rest of the meal, I started with a Grey Goose martini. 1789 requires men to wear jackets for dinner, and cell phones must be turned off. These small but important nods to civilized dining had to be celebrated with a timeless cocktail. For my first course I had the Hearts of Palm Salad - something I love to make but that takes on a whole new dimension when the Heart of Palm are fresh. As this is an autumn dish it comes with baby beets (yellow and red, things of beauty), Bronte pistachios (from Sicily, often favored), a touch of horseradish and creme fraiche that both cooled and complemented the spicy greens. For such a long list of ingredients, the salad remained very well-balanced.

I had never tried veal Sweetbreads, and I figured 1789 was the best place to try them. Their veal sweetbreads are crispy, with a consistency similar to foie gras. To cut through the heaviness, the kitchen adds lemon, radish and, importantly, sweetbread jus, which keeps the flavor consistent. Roasted scallions add a touch of smoke. American cuisine does lamb very well, and I need to make myself order other things, in spite of how much I love lamb. This time around I tried the Spiced Caroline Red Snapper - a creative cut of filets that allows the kitchen to keep as much of the fish as possible, without serving it whole. Though the rub needs more spice (I have to disclose a bias in favor of the very spice), the green apple and glazed ginger provided a much needed crunch as well as a distinct aroma. The Jerusalem artichoke and baby fennel also paired well, and again, a long list of ingredients that somehow harmonized on the plate. I paired it with a lovely Riesling that was mildly effervescent without being too minerally.

For dessert (I tried to resist but the dessert menu, it called to me) I tried the Milk Chocolate & Poire William Mousse, which features one of my favorite combination: bartlett pear and chocolate. I find that milk chocolate works best as it does not overpower the delicate pear flavor. What makes this very French combination oh so American is the bittersweet caramel and cocoa espresso crunch.

Check their website for updated seasonal offerings and treat yourself to a night of great food and no cell phone.

1789 on Urbanspoon
1789 Restaurant
1226 36th St NW
Washington, DC 20007

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On this Rainy Day

Upset that the fall snuck up on us? Here are some fun things to do, sign up, and prepare for:

America's Best Recipe

This is an open casting call from a major cable network and Parade Magazine project, searching for unique, home grown recipes. Signing up and submitting is free, so click here.

1st Annual Mediterranean Wines Festival and Classes

Who says you can't have a wine festival in the middle of the week? And metro-accessible, no less? Giramondo Wine Adventures is hosting an event celebrating the largest wine region in the world, with 30 wines from 11 different countries including Israel, Morocco, and Lebanon. Ticket price includes tasting, mezze, as well as one class.

September 30, 2009
6.30 to 9.00 PM
1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

To sign up, click here.

A different kind of Washington Debate

The Golden Local over at NBC Washington wants to know who the purveyor of the best cupcake in Georgetown is: Baked and Wired or Georgetown Cupcake. I must admit it's a matter that has yet to be settled even amongst ourselves. Throw in your two cents here.

(In the interest of fairness, the cupcakes pictured are from Red Velvet)

Monday, September 21, 2009

All the Tea in Georgetown

I always have to chuckle when people refer to the lovely tea house smack in the middle of Georgetown "a secret gem." In my mind, that is a description more fitting of Leopold's. If Ching Ching Cha appears hidden, this is due to a highly cluttered plain sight. Though it is located in a highly transited stretch of Wisconsin Avenue, it is nestled between 2 very different Georgetown institutions: Filomena's (with its over the top decorations and Clinton patronage) and the Pleasure Place (26 years and counting).

As easy as it may or may not be to find, patrons, even regulars, will always find its calm and austere atmosphere surprising. My favorite feature has always been the skylights, flooding the room with natural light for most of the tea times. Two traditional tea tables (the kind you sit cross-legged at) are at the far edge of the room, while the rest of the space has two and four-tops in laquered rosewood. Metal canisters adorn the walls as well as contain loose tea, which is available for purchase. Ching Ching Cha also strives to educate: the menu has ample descriptions of the teas, their notes and classifications, and the waitress will always present the tea along with some helpful instructions on how to sip it. L. and I both had green tea, and our cups had no handles or infusers. By the second cup (a tea kettle wit its own heat source is on the table so patrons may refresh and infuse as they deem fit) we had gotten the hang of it. Most importantly, Ching Ching Cha does not provide cream, milk, sugar, or sugar substitute. I have always taken the opportunity to experience tea straightforwardly, but I must admit this is not for everyone - Teaism also has an ample selection of teas and does not pontificate over sweeteners.

I chose the Dragon Silver Tips for no better reason than I liked the name. The menu said it was complex, sweet and somewhat floral, making it less astringent than other green teas. The leaves resembled tiny sprigs, and kept their strength for several cups. To start, I had the Chicken Dumplings - L. went for the vegetarian version. The casing was firm but delicate, with a filling of chicken, mushrooms and a hint of cabbage. The 4 dumplings came doused in soy sauce and vinegar, giving them a pleasant smokey overtone.

Since we had a full kettle, an ample appetite and plenty to talk about, L. and I decided to share several sweets. The almond cookies should appease those missing sugar in their tea: they have the crunch of a ginger snap but a more delicate smell, and the absence of any noticeable butter keeps them from overpowering the tea. The coconut tart reminded me of pound cake in texture, but with a lighter feel. The coconut is more noticeable as an essence, and it reminded me of the pineapple buns that dim sum carts often have. The standout was the lotus seed paste wrapped in puff pastry. Reminiscent of roti dough, the lotus paste had a nutty flavor, and the puff pastry had a hint of salt in it that allowed for contrast. Though the menu is not extensive, everything that we had drew our attention back to the tea - which may be the whole point.

Come in, enjoy the lack of wi fi and the absence of the alt-rock soundtrack. Enjoy the taste of tea in actual china. And if you feel that strongly about it, take a bag of Yunnan Gold home and sweeten it to your heart's content.

Ching Ching Cha on Urbanspoon
Ching Ching Cha Tea House
1063 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington DC, 20007

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Important vs. The Urgent

Lots of work and travel, hence the lack of updates. Though we always have time to eat, writing is another matter. Be back soon, and in the meantime, check out La Maison Francaise's Event this Friday:

Euronight 2009

Today's Mexican Independence Day, so check out some of the local Mexican eateries!