Friday, January 30, 2009

Doesn't That Look Good?

I adore shanks, either veal or lamb. It has been a while since I have made them for a weekend dinner.

I got to thinking about shanks after looking at the braised anise-ginger lamb shank right here at That looks absolutely divine. This dish/photo comes courtesy of the food blogger at TasteWithTheEyes.

I will be having friends over for dinner in a couple of weekends, and I am definitely leaning toward shanks (either lamb or veal) as a main course. This recipe looks good. And so does this recipe from Epicurious -- its ingredients include both lemon peel and pancetta.
Winter is a perfect time for comfort food like veal or lamb shanks.

Guess I Was Wrong

In my Thursday post, I had wondered if (and hoped that) Anna Maria's restaurant might be closed. But my hopes were dashed last night when I walked up Connecticut Ave. and discovered that it was open for business.

Oh well. The Temple of Chef Boyardee is still attracting enough unsuspecting customers to keep it going.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Could It Be?

I was driving down the 1700 block of Connecticut Avenue on Tuesday evening, when I looked across the street and noticed that Anna Maria's, an Italian restaurant — and I'm being very charitable when I use the word "restaurant" — was shrouded in darkness.

Could it be? Has Ann Maria's closed?

I hope so. This would free up a very nice parcel of commercial real estate — a spot where someone could open a good restaurant.

For Washington, D.C. residents, Anna Maria's has been a visual icon, not a dining destination. (Everyone knows it as the restaurant north of Dupont Circle with the kitschy sign that features a woman with a bouffant hair style.) Anna Maria's has given Italian food a very bad name. I ate there once, way back in the late 1980s. And, trust me, once was all you needed to decide never to return to the Temple of Chef Boyardee.

Anna Maria's would have closed years ago if it weren't for all the tourists who stay in the nearby hotels. I don't know any locals who have ever dined there more than once.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Movement With Many Messages

Jane Black wrote this interesting article in Sunday's Washington Post:

Can the combination of Barack Obama and a $500-a-plate meal of grass-fed beef in a rustic guajillo chili sauce and a warm tart of local apples and pears change the world? Or at least the way America eats?

Alice Waters, the renowned chef behind Berkeley's Chez Panisse and the doyenne of the local foods movement, sure hopes so. That's why she and a group of fellow food activists invited a passel of prominent Washingtonians to a series of homey charity dinners during last week's inaugural festivities.

The aim of it all? To ignite a conversation about food policy. With Obama, a man who actually knows the price of arugula, at the country's helm, these activists think they finally see their chance to recast the national debate about food. It's not about organic fruits and vegetables for sunchoke-munching yuppies and elite big-city chefs, they say. It's about healthier food in schools, programs to help food-stamp recipients buy nutritious fruits and vegetables and tax breaks for small family farmers.
But this covers a whole lot of ground. In the world of politics, success means having a clear, focused message. So what message are Waters and company trying to communicate?
"They don't have a central, core message," James Thurber, an expert on lobbying and the director of American University's Center on Congressional and Presidential Studies, told me. That, or they're not getting it out. "Is this about reducing obesity in schools?" he asks. "Is it about pesticides on the farms? It's a wonderful thing to try to change policy, but what policy are they trying to change?"

. . . The movement's diversity does have its benefits. It has successfully raised awareness among a broad mass of supporters. About 85,000 people descended on San Francisco last August for Slow Food Nation, the first national food conference.

"I Didn't Eat a Bloody Thing"

A passenger aboard a Virgin-Atlantic flight traveling from Mumbai to London sent Virgin's founder, Sir Richard Branson, a rather snarky letter complaining about the airline grub.

Courtesy of the London newspaper The Telegraph, we have a transcript of this letter, which is pretty amusing:

Dear Mr. Branson,

I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit.

. . . Look at this Richard. Just look at it: [the photo above was sent to Branson]

I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the dessert?

. . . lets peel back the tin-foil on the main dish and see what’s on offer.

I’ll try and explain how this felt. Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat their with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about.

Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this: [another photo was enclosed]

. . . So that was that Richard. I didn’t eat a bloody thing. My only question is: How can you live like this? I can’t imagine what dinner round your house is like, it must be like something out of a nature documentary.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Are They Still Kosher?

The answer is "yes." Unfortunately, as the N.Y. Times reports:

The kosher symbol, intended to show consumers that the contents adhere to Jewish dietary laws, was mistakenly left off 14 million boxes of Thin Mints, the variety that accounts for roughly 25 percent of Girl Scout cookie sales, said Raymond Baxter, president and chief executive of Interbake Foods, the parent company of ABC Bakers of Richmond, Va., one of two approved manufacturers of the cookies.

Proofreaders missed the mistake. But a customer noticed in November that the symbol — a circled U accompanied by a D for dairy — was missing, said Brian Crawford, an executive at the Scouts’ New York headquarters.

. . . Rabbi Yisroel Bendelstein of the Orthodox Union, who has fielded perhaps a half-dozen calls about the cookies, said he hoped the letters would “obviate any concerns.”

Thin Mints, the rabbi said, are his favorite Girl Scout cookie.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Foie Gras

In recent posts, I have shared info on what Obama ate (and will eat). But what did I eat to celebrate the inaugural?

On inauguration night, I enjoyed a generous slice of pate de foie gras with grilled ciabatta bread and a superb bottle of Brunello di Montalcino.

It was positively sublime. BTW, here's a website I just discovered for foie gras lovers --

Of course, I realize that this post is not going to tickle the fancy of animal rights activists. BTW, this page from offers a rebuttal to some of the criticisms leveled against foie gras production by animal rights activists.

No-Knead Dough

If you like to make your own pizza, your task may have become easier. The N.Y. Times profiles this pastry chef and his no-knead pizza dough.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

My mother got this recipe many years ago from her friend, Peggy Zeigler. (Just giving credit where credit is due.) This is a moist and delicious cake -- excellent for breakfast, brunch or dessert. I made it for some friends who came into Washington for the inauguration, and they seemed to enjoyed it.

1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter (left at room temperature to soften slightly)
2 cups of granulated sugar
4 eggs
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 cups (1 pint) of sour cream*
1 tablespoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of vanilla

2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of finely chopped walnuts

1-1/4 cup of confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons of bourbon
1/4 cup of milk (extra, if the glaze is too thick)

* -- If desired, you can substitute "light sour cream" but do not use non-fat sour cream.


1. Use a mixer to cream the butter and sugar until the two are reasonably combined.

2. Add eggs one at a time and mix to incorporate.

3. Add the flour, one cup at a time -- using mixer to incorporate.

4. Using a wooden or metal spoon, add the sour cream and stir to incorporate.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit).

6. In a separate bowl, combine the streusel ingredients (cinnamon, sugar and walnuts), stirring to mix.

7. Spray a 9-inch tube (bundt) pan with non-stick spray. (Butter and flour the tube pan if you don't have non-stick spray.)

8. Pour half of the cake batter into the tube pan. Sprinkle 2/3 of the streusel evenly over the batter. Now pour the remaining cake batter into the tube pan.

9. Sprinkle the remaining streusel evenly over the top of the cake, and then place in the oven. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes. The cake is done when you insert and remove a skewer, and it comes out clean.

10. Remove from oven and let the cake cool inside the tube pan for 30 minutes. Then turn the tube pan upside down so the coffee cake is released onto a rack.

11. In a small bowl, combine the glaze ingredients -- confectioners sugar, bourbon and milk, stirring until well incorporated. (Add a tablespoon more of milk if the glaze is too thick.) Drizzle the glaze over the top of the coffee cake.

12. Allow the coffee cake to cool completely, about another 45 minutes. It's ready to serve.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yes, We Can (Eat)

In today's Washington Post, food writer-critic Tom Sietsema discusses the eating and dining inclinations of the new First Family. He writes:

Now that the president-elect has assembled his Cabinet and the future first lady has settled their two daughters in a new school, Barack and Michelle Obama can focus on another weighty issue: where to eat in Washington.

Yes, they'll have a kitchen staff at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. at their disposal 24-7. But the record shows, and the Obamas' staff confirms, that the next first couple like to dine out, and they appreciate a variety of flavors.

If their time in Chicago, a top-rated restaurant town, is any gauge, the Obamas gravitate to Italian restaurants . . .

"They've loved living in Chicago," says a spokesman for the Obamas, who are also partial to potluck meals shared with friends. "But they're very excited about their new home. They won't be homebodies, for sure."

That's music to the ears of local restaurateurs, few of whom can recall George W. Bush eating out other than shortly after 9/11, when he and then-mayor Anthony Williams made an appearance at Morton's on Connecticut Avenue with their

It isn't just an honor when a sitting president drops by for a meal. Ashok Bajaj, whose six Washington restaurants include the recently renovated Bombay Club . . . near the White House, says Bill Clinton's first visit there in 1993 "put Indian cuisine on the map."
To refer to Bombay Club as being "near the White House" is an understatement. It would take Obama no more than five minutes to walk there from the Oval Office.


A friend alerted me to a new foodie website called Foodista. It seems to be where wikipedia meets the world of food.

I hear they are looking for recipes so, if you're inclined, go ahead and send your favorites over to 'em.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Artfully Done

I was pleased to finally visit a recently opened chocolate bar in Washington, D.C.'s Logan Circle neighborhood. It's called Artfully Chocolate/Kingsbury Confections, and I was impressed with what I saw and tasted.

I had a chocolate cupcake with a mocha-coffee frosting. And I also tried ACKC's signature hot chocolate. Both were yummy. ACKC has several gift-box chocolates, as well as a few cases filled with small, bite-sized specialty chocolates that look delicious.

But the co-owners of this 14th Street chocolate bar should consider rebranding themselves as simply "Artfully Chocolate." My guess is that those two words are going to be what people use to refer to them. The existing four words are clunky and hard to remember.

What Obama's Eating and Drinking

Obama won the election, and California winemakers seem to have won a victory of their own. They will be center-stage today at the new president's inaugural lunch.

The new president will be served a first course of seafood stew. It will be complemented with a 2007 sauvignon blanc from Duckhorn Vineyards.

But both the food and wine that make up the second course sound even better. Click here for details on today's lunch menu.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I Should Have Known Better

. . . than to buy a caffe latte or any other espresso drink from McDonald's. But there it was, no Starbucks or other coffee bar was in sight, and I was desperate for java as I drove off to the airport in Wisconsin.

That was the most putrid cup of coffee I have ever tried to drink. Mind you, I wasn't expecting an excellent espresso drink, but I at least hoped it would be drinkable. It wasn't.

So there you have it. You have been warned. McDonald's may tell you that it is now selling coffee, but keep driving past those golden arches. I don't know what they poured into my cup, but it was not coffee.

At one point last year, McDonald's was offering free latte on Fridays. But this stuff isn't even worth that price.

Brits Not Deserting Beer

In recent years, wine consumption has steadily grown in Britain. But Roger Protz insists that beer is in no danger of being eclipsed by les vins. At the Guardian's "Word of Mouth" blog, Protz writes:

I don't deny that sales of wine have increased in Britain. But we still drink far more beer: wine has overtaken beer in the off-trade but beer easily outsells it in pubs . . .

Beer is in fact enjoying a remarkable renaissance. I'm talking of craft beer, quality beer, brewed by craftsmen, not the bland and tasteless Euro-fizz produced by global brewers. Close to 250 new craft breweries have opened in the past three years. There are more than 500 breweries operating in Britain and choice and diversity have never been better.
By the way, Protz was responding to this post by Malcolm Gluck.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sausage-Jerky in Beverly Hills?

It seems like the last meat product you'd think of when shopping in the upscale confines of Beverly Hills, but the L.A. Times has some news for us.

A 60-year-old, meat-and-sausage shop in Beverly Hills is very popular for its South African-style sausage and jerky:

By 10 on a brisk Saturday morning, the retro aluminum-lined glass butcher case at the European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen is already cloudy with fingerprints.

. . . Troub and the Sausage Kitchen's previous owner, Willie Kossbiel, are matter-of-fact about the seemingly mysterious debut of these African specialties. Thirty years ago, a representative from the South African Consulate General's office (located two miles northeast of the shop) asked Kossbiel to consider making the hometown favorites that expats were craving.

. . . "All I know is you can find South Africans there before road trips or a game of rugby," says consul Etienne van Straaten, who recently picked up some biltong for a family camping trip to Sequoia National Park.

If you read the article, you'll find out what the Afrikaans word for jerky ("biltong") actually means.

Le Boeuf

Noting that some new books about beef have just been published, Slate's Sara Dickerman recently wrote this article that provides a very capsulized history of beef cattle.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

As If He Can't

I noticed from this article in the Wall Street Journal that food empire-builder Wolfgang Puck has expressed a hope for 2009:

"Hopefully, next year I will spend more weekends with my family instead of working."

Puh-lease. As if he can't.

Think of all the money Puck must be earning from having sold his name to almost every conceivable food item or gizmo (from cooking spray to frozen pizzas to mediocre food in airport kiosks and shopping malls). Surely Puck has enough money in the bank to call it a day and hang out with his family on the weekends.

It's Puck's right to sell food like a widget, but, with all of the money he must be making, why does he suggest that he has no choice other than to work on the weekends?

Sorry, Wolfie, I'm not shedding any tears.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Giant of a Pastry Chef

From Friday's N.Y. Times:

Gaston Lenôtre, founder of the restaurant, catering, retail and cooking school empire . . . died Thursday at his home in Sennely, in the Sologne region south of Paris. He was 88.

. . . Mr. Lenôtre was the exacting patriarch of French pâtisserie. He rejuvenated pastry making in the early 1960s and then created a worldwide group of 60 boutiques in 12 countries . . .

Pierre Hermé, one of France’s leading pastry chefs, who became an apprentice at Lenôtre at 14, recalled in a telephone interview Thursday that Mr. Lenôtre “dusted, lightened and modernized the heavy pastries of the 1950s.”
And this line from the obit article stuck out as a lovely piece of nostalgia:

Before World War II broke out, he peddled homemade chocolates in Paris on his bicycle for pocket money.
Instead of having a lot of bland, overly sweet Hershey-quality chocolate bars to choose from, I'd like to live in a country where street vendors are peddling homemade chocolates. Of course, I'd probably be a lot heavier than I am if I lived in a country like that.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Review: Ulah Bistro

I had brunch with a friend on Saturday at Ulah Bistro, located near 12th and U Streets, N.W. in Washington, D.C. The restaurant is relatively small, but cozy, housed in an old townhouse with exposed brick walls. There is an upstairs lounge.

(NOTE: While we were at Ulah, there was a presidential surprise across the street. See my previous post.)

I ordered Eggs Chesapeake, and I was impressed. The crab was plentiful and of very high quality. The eggs were perfectly poached. The Hollandaise sauce that accompanied it was fine.

My friend ordered a pizza, the Carnavale, which he liked very much. The proscuitto on the pizza was of high quality, although the sun-dried tomatoes atop the pizza had begun to dry out just a bit.

One complaint is that Ulah's has no espresso machine. Our server told us that the coffee they brew is excellent. I decided to dive in, and I must admit that I was disappointed because the coffee was just so-so.

Ulah's has a small, but pleasant bar, and there are several very good beers available on tap.

Service was pleasant, but a little on the slow side. Still, I liked Ulah's overall, and both of us agreed we would come back. Here is Tom Sietsema's description of Ulah in The Washington Post.

One plus is that Ulah's takes reservations via

Obama Visits Ben's Chili Bowl

On Saturday, while I was dining with a friend near 12th and U Streets in Washington, D.C. (see my next post), a flurry of police and jet-black SUVs poured into the block and cleared pedestrians from the sidewalk.

It turns out that only some 60 feet away, right across the street, Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty was joining president-elect Barack Obama for a 1:00 p.m. lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl, a no-nonsense restaurant-cum-greasy spoon.

Here is the City Paper's summary of the Obama-Fenty lunch. Apparently, Obama likes his half-smokes with extra cheese. And he drinks his iced tea like they do in the Carolinas -- sweet.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's All the Rage in the U.K.

According to the N.Y. Times, at British butcher shops and elegant restaurants this meat

. . . is selling as fast as gamekeepers and hunters can bring it in.

. . . many feel that eating [it] is a way to do something good for the environment while enjoying a unique gastronomical experience.
What meat are the Brits increasingly fond of? It's squirrel.

No joke.

Just for the record, I have eaten a few helpings of squirrel stew. (And, no, it doesn't taste like chicken, but it is pretty good.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It's Not About the Sugar

At least it shouldn't be about the sugar.

Unfortunately, whipped cream is usually prepared with too much sugar. It makes it taste like something scooped right out of a Kool-Whip container.

Having just returned from Vienna, I am of the opinion that the Europeans do a better job of making whipped cream.

In Vienna, nearly every dessert (and even several times of coffees) come "mit schlag." And the whipped cream I was served was excellent -- very little sugar was added. The chantilly that is served in France is also much less sweet that the whipped cream that is typically made in the U.S.

So how much is the right amount of sugar to prepare whipped cream? There is no consensus. The amount varied widely when I perused recipes for whipped cream.

This recipe calls for 1/4 cup of sugar for every cup of cream. That's twice as sweet as this recipe from, which calls for the same amount of sugar for every 2 cups of cream. This recipe from is even less sweet, calling for only 1 to 2 tabelspoons of sugar for every cup of cream. I am guessing that this is probably closest to the recipe that created the whipped cream that I ate in Vienna.

The recipe also had a few notes that were news to me. For example, they say that adding the sugar after the cream is partially whipped will help add volume to your whipped cream.

Whatever you do, the next time you make whipped cream at home, try letting the cream play "center stage" by reducing the amount of sugar. You will probably be pleased with the results.

Cooking As a Career

For those who have lost their jobs or may be facing "downsizing" at their employer, it's worthy of consideration.

Rachel Zupek, a writer at, has compiled this list of the 25 best jobs for 2009, and chefs/cooks are rated as #12.

An Economic Casualty

MSNBC reports that a restaurant in Rockefeller Center will close:

The recession has reached the ritzy Rainbow Room, the special-occasion spot that overlooks midtown Manhattan from high above the tourist-attracting Rockefeller Center skating rink.

With business slowing and the lease in dispute, the venue's Italian-themed Rainbow Grill restaurant plans to shutter as of Jan. 12, a spokesman said Saturday. Its bar, banquet space and the weekend dinner-dancing sessions that reflect its glamorous history will continue on the 65th floor.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Food Encounters in Vienna

The images above are from my recent trip to Vienna:

1) I ordered fried pike for lunch one day. It was lovely and flaky. Pike is also served grilled by many Vienna restaurants.

2) This is a traditional Wiener Schnitzel. Although Wiener Schnitzel is typically veal, it can sometimes be pork. A filet of either meat is pounded very thin and then lightly breaded. The best schitzel I had in Vienna was served to me at Figlmüller, a restaurant in the center of town that has been open since 1905. Their schnitzels extend beyond the rim of their dinner plates. Be sure to order the cold potato salad as an accompaniment.

3) Apfelstrudel is the sweet conclusion to a Viennese lunch or dinner. It is served "mit schlag" (with cream), as are virtually all desserts in Austria. Although apple is the typical filling for a strudel, there are other types of strudel. The most common alternative is usually called topfen -- a creamy, white cheese filling. In the Grinzing district, I even had a cherry strudel, which was fantastic.

4) This is a pastry roll purchased at a cafe in Grinzing that was filled with a marvelous orange marmalade. If every jelly-filled doughnut in the U.S. tasted this delicious, I'd eat a lot more of them.
5) Crowd take a break from shopping at one of various stalls in the Gärtnerstrasse during the Christmas holidays that sell Glühwein, a mulled wine served warm, and hot rum punches. Punch flavors range from apfel to marillen (apricot).

The Right Eggs

This morning, I was strolling past the grand residence of the French ambassador in Washington, D.C., when I noticed a deliveryman getting buzzed into the estate.

He was carrying a big box that was labeled "Organic Eggs." I'd have expected nothing less.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Good Wine Blog

I wish he posted a little more frequently, but I do enjoy what Jerry Hall has to write about wines at his blog called WineWaves. It's worth checking out if you drink a lot of wine like me.

On the right side of the blog is an index of different wine varietals so you can quickly find commentary or reviews on your faves.
Another thing that I like about Hall is that he isn't one of those typical "it's all about the Cab" wine writers. I appreciated this disclosure:
Zinfandel being my favorite wine grape, I appreciate the differences in personality between say, Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Amador, Lodi and Lake County. They're all powerful, but Napa's Zin power is the most classic and elegant, the least defined by jammy fruit or overtly high alcohol levels.

I don't know that I would call Red Zinfandel my favorite wine grape, but I do believe that it's very underrated (mostly, I think, because of the word association with those Kool-Aid tasting White Zinfandels).