President Eating

President Eating

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Where You Eat May Just Reflect Your Politics

Liberals, conservatives, independents – they've all got to eat. 

But according to an annual survey conducted by Experian Marketing Services looking at the personal attributes of American consumers, where you fall on the political spectrum says a lot about the choices you make when deciding to dine out.

To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in In the Capital, click here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Great Eats for Under $20

Who says you have to spend half the Congressional budget on a meal in Washington. Peanut-butter/bacon burgers. Smoked-trout-and-potato salad. Fried chicken with Kewpie mayo-chili sauce.

Click here to see The Washingtonian's Cheap Eats Summer 2014 list.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chef Shares Her Favorite Late-Night Eateries

Marjorie Meeks-Bradley, as chef of both Ripple and Roofers Union, knows a lot about cooking. Which means she probably knows a lot about eating and working late.

So when she is finally done for the night, where does she head to stave off her hunger. She her choices, which 1st appeared in a Thrillist post, by clicking here.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Who Orders Wagyu Anyway?

When Executive Chef Jeremy Shelton arrived at BLT Steakseven months ago, he had big plans to shake up the menu.
"The more cool shit I can have, the happier I am," he says, and if there's one thing that makes Shelton happy, it's the Wagyu strip. It's his favorite thing on the menu right now.
For Shelton there's steak and then there's Wagyu beef. These Japanese and domestic breeds have meat with intense marbling and fatty textures, plus no two Wagyu cuts are exactly the same, which is why Shelton developed a flight program around the premium meat.
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in Eater DC, click here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It was a Great Day and a Great Way to Grab Crabs (and Oysters, Too)

Crab cakes don't get fresher than this.
Even though it was Father's Day, Andrew Markert, the chef at Beuchert's Saloon, was relying on his mother's recipe for inspiration. Markert was 1 of 8 top DC-area chefs competing in the 9th annual DC Crab Cake Competition.

"I'm using mama's crab cake recipe," Markert said. "The mothers always do the cooking on Father's Day, right."

Markert was facing stiff competition. Also presenting their crab cake creations for tasting were:
  • Mike Abt of Le Diplomate
  • Matt Adler of Osteria Morini
  • Sarah Biglan of Ris
  • Tony Chittum of Iron Gate
  • Chris Clime of Passion Fish
  • Haidar Karoum of Doi Moi and
  • Johnny Spero of Minibar
There would be 2 awards given at the competition, held at The Source by Wolfgang Puck. A group of judges would select the overall top crab cake. But all the attendees could vote for their favorite and that chef would win the People's Choice Award. 

So for 2 hours, more than 100 crab aficionados, who had paid $75 each to benefit educational programs at the American Institute of Wine and Food, moved from long table to table, enjoying the samples that the chefs were producing in front of their eyes. There was no limit to how many small crab cakes you could consume, so you were able to enjoy multiple taste tests at each station if you wanted.

But, of course, man (or woman) cannot live on crab alone.  You could also feast on clam chowder, Gordy's pickles, fresh vegetables, and bread. And then there were the oysters. Nothing serves as a better palette cleanser between crab bites than chilled oysters. And, like the crab cakes, they were also unlimited.

The Devine shucking siblings
So while most of the focus was rightly on the 8 chefs, I decided to hone in on the brother-sister team of Timothy and Bernadette Devine of Barren Island Oysters, based in Hooper's Island Md, who were shucking oyster after oyster at a table in the front of the restaurant.

Even if you weren't an oyster fan, you had to get a chuckle from their sign which proudly proclaimed "Ugly oysters [but] they've got great personalities."

Bernadette credited her brother with teaching her the art of shucking. This was actually an anniversary for the team. Their 1st public event had been at the 8th annual DC Crab Competition. Bernadette recalled her 1st heavy shucking day. "I shucked 300 oysters. I couldn't move my wrist the next day," she said. Bernadette said Timothy had taught her his method. "It's all in the wrist," she said. "You go in at an angle and you wiggle."

For his part, Tim said he came to his oyster operations indirectly. He, Bernadette, and their 5 other siblings grew up on the Chesapeake, taking advantage of everything you could do on the water. Eventually, after several years as a self-taught photographer in New York City, he returned to Maryland and began oystering 3 years ago.

Obviously, since I was in the presence of an oyster expert, I had to ask Tim what was the proper way to eat an oyster. "It's personal taste, but the 1st oyster, you have to eat naked. And by that I mean the oyster should be naked, not you," he said with a wide grin.

Finally, all the eating was over and it was time for The Source's executive chef and emcee Scott Drewno to announce the winners. The judges ruled that Haidar Karum had created the best crab cakes of the day.

However, Drewno announced that there would be crab cake history with the People's Choice Award. For the 1st time, 2 chefs had tied. First, he announced Sarah Biglan of Ris. Then he called Markert's name.

"We thought about having a crab off," Drewno said. "But we decided on a tie. The winner gets a case of wine. We're going to give 6 bottles to each."

After thanking all the participants for helping young developing chefs, Drewno had one final message.

"Everything today was all about local," he said. "Please keep supporting local."

Monday, May 12, 2014

Getting Soft, Yet Staying Crabby for Mother's Day

A story of Mother's Day, love, and food in 2 parts.

Part I
For the past 40 years, my wife and I have had the same conversation around Mother's Day. It always went something like this:

My Wife: "What are you getting me for Mother's Day?"

Me (looking pained and put out): "Why would I get you anything? You're not my mother."

My Wife: "But I am the mother of your only child."

Me: "That's my point. Let him get you something."

But this year, on our 41st year of marriage, I felt a change was in order. After all,  you don't want a relationship to go stale from always doing the same thing.

I decided to take my wife out for Mother's Day. I knew she liked soft-shell crabs. I like soft-shell crabs. In fact, we have quite a history with soft-shell crabs.

Before moving to DC, we lived in South Jersey. My wife's father, after he retired, devoted his time to vegetable gardening, and hunting, and fishing, and crabbing. That meant we could have all the crabs we wanted for free, including soft-shells when they were in season. Judy's dad was a master crab cook. He passed that knowledge on to Judy. We can have perfect soft-shell crabs at home. But there were 2 problems with that plan. First, soft-shells were going for $8.95 a piece at Eastern Market. And, secondly, I really didn't think asking my wife to cook up $75 or more of crabs on Mother's Day spoke of the rekindled romance I was trying to bring into the picture.

Now we had eaten soft-shell crabs out before. Our favorite soft-shell crab story was set in New Orleans. Judy feels about New Orleans the way I used to feel about taking her out for Mother's Day. She says it smells like our son's Bucknell fraternity house after a long, wicked weekend. But it's the food that really separates us. I love everything Cajun and Creole and Congo Square. My wife doesn't like spices, peppers, onions, and hot sauce, which, of course, means just about everything cooked in the Big Easy. Once, when we were there for 5 days, she would only go to restaurants that served soft-shell crabs. "I can eat those," she said.

So soft-shell crabs it would be. I did some research. Well, that's not really true. I ran across a Facebook post listing 6 recommended restaurants that were offering soft-shell crabs for Mother's Day. We had been to most of them, but we hadn't been to  DC Coast, one of 7 restaurants in the Passion Food group. However, we had dined at 3 other Passion Food restaurants and really liked them all.

So DC Coast it would be, if Judy approved..

I initiated a new pre-Mother's Day conversation.

Me: "Hey hon, I would like to take you out for Mother's Day this year".

Judy looked at me suspiciously. She thinks I always have an ulterior motive, a motive that will somehow benefit me more than her.

Judy: "Why the change of heart?"

Me: "I just want to do something special for you this year. I know how much you like soft-shell crabs. So I thought we could go to DC Coast for soft-shells."

Judy: "Alright, but I'm going to check out the menu. I know you."

And, when Judy pulled up the on-line menu, there it was - a dish known as DC Coast Tower of Crab. It not only had tempura soft-shell, but it had a crab cake as well.

"You like tempura soft-shells. They won't have any spices on them. And you get a crab cake, too," I said.

Judy looked like she was convinced. But then she spotted the monthly special. It was called Coast to Coast Blue Crab Tasting Menu. It began with amuse bouche (that's a fancy French term for a tiny tidbit served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting for the 1st course. Not to be confused with hors d'oeuvres, although both words are French. Amuse bouche literally means "mouth amuser"in English. A quick aside here. I think The Mouth Amusers would be a great name for a band) of She Crab Soup with chervil and sherry froth. The 1st course was Crab and Baby Artichoke Tart with spinach marscapone, piquillo peppers, and pickled ramps. The 2nd course was Grilled Soft Shell Imperial with bourbon barbeque glaze, baby kale slaw, and new potato salad. A dessert of Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcakes with creme fraiche semifreddo and candied mint leaves completed the meal.

"That's why you wanted to go here. Admit it," Judy said.

"No," I said with fingers crossed. "It was about you and the soft-shells, I swear."

Dismissing her misgivings for now, Judy agreed. I grabbed my iPad and opened my Open Table app. In a matter of seconds, we had a 6:30 Mother's Day reservation at DC Coast and a rendezvous with some soft-shells.

Part 2
Arriving at DC Coast, we were seated in a plush, cushioned, round booth which provided a much more intimate setting than the tables on the open floor.

Jahlex  takes care of our neighboring table
We met our ebullient, efficient waiter Jahlex, who, over the course of the evening, we came to know well.

Like so many DC workers, he wasn't from the area.

"I'm from the only city that counts," he said with a broad smile.

"New York?" I asked.

"No," he said. "Brooklyn."

"Brooklyn really is coming back," I said.

"Never went anywhere," he responded with even a broader smile.

As expected, Judy ordered the tower of crab. Now it was my turn. As I have been doing more and more recently, I turned the decision over to our waiter.

"Take the lobster," Jahlex said with certainty.

The lobster at DC Coast is one of the restaurant's signature dishes. It is smoked Chinese style. It is taken apart and then reassembled and placed on a bed of stir-fired vegetables and crispy-friend spinach. You simply pull the meat out with a small folk.

I took the lobster.

As our various courses arrived, we learned more about Jahlex. He had just gotten back in DC 3 hours ago after spending 2 days with his mother in Brooklyn. "Couldn't be there for Mother's Day," he said. He had served in the Marines and lived overseas for a number of years.

Smoked lobster
Our entrees arrived. Jahlex was right. The lobster was outstanding. Judy's crab cake was very good, but the soft-shell crab fell a little short of her father's recipe.

Oh wait, I forgot to tell you about the champagne. I don't drink and Judy rarely does. But she does like champagne and I convinced her to get a glass. After all, it was Mother's Day and she is a mother.

I don't care for dessert. Judy loves dessert. Usually, we split a dessert 75/25. But after hearing Jahlex describe his favorite on the menu, we decided to each have one. Jahlex's recommendation was a piece of s'mores cheesecake with double chocolate filling, graham cracker crust, and torched merangue.

S'mores cheesecake
"Tastes just like chocolate with roasted marshmallows," Judy said, quite correctly.

Jahlex brought our bill. Judy and I always play a game with our dining checks. One of us looks at it and the other has to guess the amount. It was Judy's turn to guess. She was under by $20. I told I knew the reason why. "That's exactly what your glass of champagne cost," I said, noting however that the meal had been worth every penny paid.

Based on the quality of the food and Jahlex's service, I was certain we would be back. In fact, we had talked about it during dinner. And I was pretty sure it would be before next Mother's Day. I mean there was still that Blue Crab tasting menu waiting out there. And, as we all know, you can never get enough amuse bouche.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Waiting for We The Pizza

We are avidly awaiting the impending opening of Spike Mendelsohn's We the Pizza in our Crystal City Underground. Since we live in Crystal City Apartments, we won't even have to go outside to get our favorite pizza in the DC area.

In the meantime, we'll just have to keep going to Mendelsohn's burger and shake joint Good Stuff Eatery, which is right next door to the soon-to-open pizza shop. It's a tough life, but somebody has to eat in it.