Wednesday, June 30, 2010

But Does Kagan Prefer Her Dumplings Fried or Steamed?

We've already learned where U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan "probably" ate dinner last Christmas. And the answer was no big surprise. So why not wade in a little deeper and find out what she ordered? Or find out which Chinese restaurant is her favorite?

I'm sure a few of us foodies are curious. Besides, asking questions like those would make these Senate confirmation hearings much less boring than they are.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Point-Counterpoint: Scrapple

I enjoyed this N.Y. Times blog article about the "Great Scrapple Correspondence of 1872." The newspaper opened up its archives and found a number of letters that readers wrote either praising or trashing scrapple.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Food for Thought

The Hazards of Being a Food Critic: The Albany Times-Union's food writer believes he was beaten by men who were hired by a local restaurant owner who had a score to settle. More details are right here.

Starbucks Coffee . . . and Beer Hall? Apparently so. Restaurant News reports that a Starbucks in metro Seattle is planning to renovate with a "green" design and a menu that will expand to include beer and wine. More details are right here.

No Need to Abandon Fish: Maria Rodale contends that the oil spill in the Gulf need not drive U.S. consumers away from seafood. She notes that trout is a freshwater fish that is "farmed" -- meaning that eating it doesn't raise the same sustainability issues as some other fish. She even has a recipe to share. More details are right here.

Satisfying Our Sweet Tooth: Here's more proof that dessert is still Americans' favorite course. I just noticed that 4 of the 5 "most popular recipes" listed on Delish's home page are desserts. One of them is Sour Cream Ice Cream. That's one of those recipes that you just know is either wonderful or terrible. More details are right here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Disgusting Dish of the Month

A s someone who enjoys an occasional Pop Tart, never let it be said that I'm a food snob. But there are some concoctions that just aren't edible. This was a tough choice, but I give the award to the blog Picky Palate for its recipe called White Chocolate PB&J Muddy Mix.

Now each of these ingredients can be tasty (although white chocolate is overrated). But combined? Absolutely revolting. Just check out the photos and you'll start to feel dizzy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Crème Brûlée on the Grill?

Sounds like an enticing approach? Fugetaboutit. New York Times food blogger Wilson Rothman was excited to try out a barbecue cast-iron creme brulee set, but the outcome was a flop. He writes:
Having made creme brulee plenty of times with a torch, and a few times under a broiler, I knew that the proposition -- lowering a super-heated (cast-iron) salamander onto sugar to be caramelized -- probably would work. I didn't even balk at paying $30 for two enameled cast-iron ramekins and a burger-patty-sized disc of cast iron (whose total cost to manufacture might well be under $5).

But no, it wasn't to be. In fact, it was a disaster.

. . . Sugar around the disc's edges did turn a perfect color and consistency, but half the sugar under the disc only browned a tad, and the other half stuck to the bottom of the disc.
The moral of the story is to stick with a blow torch if you want to make creme brulee at home. Or, better yet, have a restaurant chef prepare it for you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ever Made Breakfast With Marbles?

Okay, so that's a silly question. But so is this question, which was asked by a blogger at Serious Eats.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A "Twilight" of Menus

The book and movie series "Twilight" has spawned a host of food-related items, including a cookbook and special dishes in certain restaurants in Washington State's Olympic Peninsula, where the series is set. A pizzeria in the area even has created a full "Twilight" menu.

Delish's Eric Burkett suggests that fans "might consider a stop at Sully's Drive-In for a Bella Burger, but only if you like pineapple on your hamburger.

Friday, June 18, 2010

An Insurmountable Task

The very term "airline food" has become an oxymoron. On most flights, it's nothing more than prepackaged pretzels or other snack foods. On longer flights, it's nothing you could possibly get excited about. But for a new upscale airline, a celebrity chef is trying to change that. From the Washington Post:
It sounds like a "Top Chef" moment, but this challenge is real: Teach the catering staff at two airports, separated by an ocean, how to replicate your signature dishes, then reheat and serve them.

At 38,000 feet.

At least seven hours after they have been cooked.

Since February, chef Michel Richard has been working with Open Skies, the all-business-class subsidiary of British Airways, to design and implement menus for service this month and next on (transatlantic) flights . . .
According to the Post reporter who tasted a facsimile of Richard's signature fried chicken, the airline version was "[n]ot as good as the original, but a reasonable facsimile." Of course, the seven-hour delay means that passengers are essentially eating leftovers -- that's what we call it when you cook something and then reheat it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: D.C.'s Florida Avenue Grill

Last Thursday, a co-worker and I ventured to Washington, D.C.'s U Street neighborhood for a beer and then we ate at the Florida Avenue Grill. Since 1944, the Grill has been serving Southern and Soul food to Washingtonians.

I grew up in Arkansas, and my colleague grew up in Mississippi so we know what good, fried catfish tastes like. Well, the fried catfish that we ate at the Grill was excellent -- just enough breading to seal in the flavor, but not too much. The sweet potatoes were good, but they were a bit over-sweetened. The collard greens were marvelous -- tender and not too salty. The biscuits they bring to your table are tasty. I will probably try the spareribs on my next visit.

The Grill has a charming, diner-style seating arrangement. Service was excellent. It's a gem, and I'm only sorry it took me this long to discover it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Spellbound by Food

What do mozzarella, coriander, lecithin, zucchini, confiserie and mesclun have in common? They were among the dozens of food words that contestants were asked to spell during the recent National Spelling Bee. Click here to watch how 13-year-old Elizabeth Platz handled the word "gnocchi."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Poulet Farci or Poulet Farce?

What is the world coming to? It's a question worth pondering after reading this article from Time magazine:
This spring, scientists at the University of Missouri announced that after more than a decade of research, they had created the first soy product that not only can be flavored to taste like chicken but also breaks apart in your mouth the way chicken does: not too soft, not too hard, but with that ineffable chew of real flesh.

When you pull apart the Missouri invention, it disjoins the way chicken does, with a few random strands of "meat" hanging loosely.
Perhaps I should be open-minded about this new kind of, um, "chicken," but it seems very strange that people will go to such an extreme to try to deceive people into thinking they are eating meat. Is this basically an admission that it's unrealistic to think that carnivores will ever embrace vegetables that taste like . . . . vegetables?

Yet the University researchers came up with a product that isn't quite a perfect forgery. According to Time:
But while Missouri's fake chicken has the right consistency, it still has to be flavored — and heavily salted — to taste like meat.
So if you have a salt-restricted diet, eating real chicken makes more sense. Look at that lovely poulet roti pictured above. How could someone settle for faux chicken when they could enjoy a slice of white or dark meat from that wonderful chicken? Beats me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Orleans: So What's on the Menu?

The BP oil spill's impact is being felt on restaurant menus in New Orleans and the dining scene elsewhere. But in the Big Easy, restaurateurs aren't ditching Gulf seafood. According to the Washington Post's Theresa Vargas:
Restaurants in the French Quarter brag about serving homegrown Louisiana seafood, which makes up about 30 percent of the U.S. domestic product . . . there is no question that the loss of the normal supply of shrimp, blue crabs and oysters is being felt here first.

But unlike cities that are advertising non-gulf seafood, New Orleans is not abandoning local catch: it's embracing what remains.
That means crayfish -- and, to a lesser extent, alligator -- is claiming a larger spot on menus in the Big Easy. If you haven't tried alligator, give it a shot. I found it tasty.

The Post article points out that 70 percent of Louisiana's coastline remains open. So, if you're pondering a trip to New Orleans, it sounds like you will still eat darn well.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Meet Mrs. Celebrity-Chef

A frustrated woman seeks advice from relationship columnist Carolyn Hax:
Dear Carolyn,

Husband is a local celebrity chef, who quickly gained notoriety during our first few years of marriage. This created some conflict with "food groupies" and my husband's inability to lay down boundaries when they hug, kiss or hit on him at local events.

I am accused of being jealous and insecure when I mention that it makes me uncomfortable. Duh. ... How does one act at [social or public] events, especially when women elbow me out of the way to get to my husband?
Ah, the hazards of living with a celebrity chef. I wasn't all that impressed with Carolyn's response. It would have been far more entertaining if Carolyn had closed her response with a phrase like this: "And, honey, if all else fails, you may solve your problem by turning to your hubby's knife block."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Food for Thought

A Congressman With a Sweet Tooth: According to the Washington Post, the leadership PAC of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) spent $13,400 on candy, cookies, popcorn and chocolates.

Gifford's Closes Suddenly: I was surprised to discover a closed Gifford's ice cream outlet in downtown Washington (located on E Street, between 10th and 11th Streets, N.W.). The front door has a sticker that indicates that the health department closed it. Interesting. They don't prepare meals there, and ice cream doesn't present a lot of potential for health code violations so I'm curious what happened. Nothing I saw on Gifford's website provides an explanation.

Can You Taste the Difference? When it comes to eggs, apparently not. This blind taste test found that there was no difference between supermarket eggs and those from locally-sourced, humanely treated hens.

Que Syrah, Syrah: The N.Y. Times' Eric Asimov wonders if there really is a future for Syrah producers in the U.S. One wine producer who was an early champion of the red-wine grape laments that Syrah "appears to have crashed and burned in this country."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

Thanks to Laura, the blogger at Feeding Frenzy, for this marvelous recipe for pumpkin ice cream pie. We made it this weekend, and it was a big hit.

Pumpkin may seem like a strange ingredient for a dessert served on a May weekend, but this was ice cream, after all. Be sure to make the ginger snap-cookie crust (instead of a standard pie shell). That crust was a key part of what earned the dessert raves.